In “Watch Out! A Cliff!,” Josh Kalven explores how analytics helped the staff at Newsbound figure out what was tripping up readers in a stack article on the minimum wage entitled “Scraping By.” While I have no doubt come across such stacks online, it never really occurred to me that as I was clicking through (sometimes intently, reading the content word for word, and racing towards the end; at others only reading a slide or two before my interest waned), my behaviour was being guaged. I found it fascinating that the way in which readers reacted to this particular piece—dropping off after the content-heavy slides 10 and 12—was so noticeable, and that after it was altered, the overall completion time increased. (I also never knew that such pieces are referred to as “stacks;” thanks, Josh, for enlightening me.)
While it should be noted that “Scraping By” received over 350, 000 downloads within 2 weeks of going live (a significant number), I was left wondering if there is a certain number required of people reading/downloading a piece for the analytics to be sound. After all, there are so many reasons for a reader to drop off on a slide and not complete a piece other than the mere fact that it didn’t capture their interest enough. People get distracted all the time (someone wanting their attention, incoming calls, etc.); do these analytics take into account a reader returning to the stack again? (Ironically, just as I myself was reading “Scraping By,” I got a call midway that took my attention away from it. I had actually been enjoying the stack, and had I not been distracted, would likely have finished it, yet I didn’t find it quite so fascinating as to go back again to revisit it.)
While I can see why stacks make so much sense to those who are trying to deem how captivating the article is, as a reader, I tend to find them tedious (when given the option, I will always “click to view as one page”). Something about the physical act of clicking through slides does not appeal to me as much as simply scrolling down the screen to read an article; it almost feels like too much effort. When it comes to stacks that are presented as a “top” list that counts down (The Top 10 Best Patios in Vancouver!), I will usually stick with clicking through just to see who comes in at number one, but I tend to do so grudgingly, resenting that I have to sift through the rest of the entries when all I really want is to see who’s in first place.