The rise and rise of the slideshow


I can see why publishers locally love the slideshow – it’s light on the text, heavy on the images and relatively cheap to produce.

And their job is to give the people what they want – right?

Well, sure … and people want pictures and easily digestible content. Many believe that pictures – static and moving – are really the future of the web … and it’s a development that will see it move away from straight text and move more in line with magazines and TV in terms of the content it is delivering.

However, the cynic in me feels that the motivation behind slideshows is driven on one hand by users and the other by a drive to generate higher page impressions and more inventory to monetise.

There’s no real issue with this in principal, but it does raise issues when the value of slideshow inventory is considered by the media vendor to be as high as pages with 20-30 times the page dwell time.

See, slideshows are a dream in terms of extraction per user. If I’m looking at a slideshow within a womens lifestyle section, chances are an advertiser is paying around $40cpm to be in that area. Lets say the slide serves up 3o images in 60 seconds- 30 page impressions – then the publisher has effectively made $1.20 from that 60 seconds with the users.

Compare this to running ad units next to text based stories – where dwell time might be 2-3 minutes and there’s 3 ads on the page … the effective extraction there is around 12 cents for the 2-3 minutes of the users time.

12c versus $1.20 … slideshows really start to seem lucrative if you can get a user to look at 10 or more over the course of a month – effectively generating 300+ page views. It’s much better than a user coming back and viewing 20 stories, and 20 pageviews, over the same period.

You can see why this year you’re seeing more slide shows than ever before across all the major players. It makes sense commercially and for the user.

The only person slideshows don’t make sense for is the advertisers – well, under current pricing. How much value is there for an advertiser if their medium rectangle is only getting 1-2 seconds in front of a user who is churning through a slideshow of Hollywood’s Hottest Fatties?

Personally I think slideshows should be sold on a by week integrated sponsorship basis, working back to an effective CPM around $5. This is fair and moves them from cheap pageview generator to a smart, integrated opportunity.

Advertisers want to align themselves with popular content, but right now I’d be pretty sure there are a few ad agencies advising their clients to steer clear of these environments. You will find if the pricing doesn’t correct itself eventually advertisers will avoid the space all together. No one can create the argument that a 1-2 second exposure in a high churn environment is an effective use of advertising dollars.

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One response to “The rise and rise of the slideshow

  1. Agreed. I’m from a technical background and when building slideshows even back in 03/04 I wondered why anyone would buy the impressions on them on a CPM basis.

    Weekly sponsorships or other time based fee is the only thing that makes sense – the brand association is valuable, the # of impressions is not.

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