News sites need to scroll

First, a story. A few weeks back this blog site was loading slowly and although it turned out to be one of those temporary things, I experimented and changed the site’s first page. One thing I did was reduce the number of posts there from 25 to 10. Because of that, after a year of being an issue, several people emailed me to say that the ‘previous page’ link at the bottom of the site was broken. The reason I figured that this had come to the fore had been because there were readers who liked to read more than 10 posts and now were missing them. Sadly, I haven’t been able to work out a fix for that (it is a code error too deep inside WordPress). But today, I moved back to the 25 post model.

This got me thinking about how people are reading news and news-like stuff like this blog. Half of regular readers of this site, use a feed reader. That allows you to skip annoying site glitches and put all your content on a big page and scroll through them. I, personally, scroll through a thousand posts a day. The same principle guides twitter, friend feed and now Facebook. You read by scrolling. And there is some evidence that this is the case.

News sites don’t organise themselves this way. The MSM is still laid out on a ‘page flipping model.’ We know that that is OK if you want to read an article but if you want browse and scan, it is terrible. That is why users gravitate towards lists of most popular articles or ‘just in.’ Notice that some new media sites don’t follow the old model. Crikey’s web site does but its popular email is an ode to scrolling (and it shows how ads can work there too). News’ new The Punch site is scrolling based. And Business Spectator is half way there. And, for blogs, it is all about the scroll.

It is going to take a while to work out how best to do this, but scrolling looks like the method of choice for dealing with content — not just web — but anything. We are a small technological/design innovation away from getting it right.

[Update: By the way, Google results are default at 10 results per page. You can switch it to more. I’ve done that. It is much better.]

[Update 2: Microsoft embraces the scroll for newspapers.]

7 thoughts on “News sites need to scroll”

  1. Good point.   Years of reading over my girlfriend’s shoulder suggests that Norwegian newspapers might have been a step ahead in this department (e.g.  For as long as I’ve been paying attention (4 years give or take) the Norwegian newspapers have been organised around the scrolling principle.  I used to think this was a humorous Nordic quirk.  Guess it’s time to go and take my medicine…


  2. Sorry, got ahead of myself. I meant to suggest that the problem could be to do with rewriting rules or “Permalinks” settings in the WordPress Dashboard.


  3. ABC News’ Just In section seems like a good example of the scrolling principal:
    It’s essentially a newswire with the latest news at the top.
    It’s worth noting this is how the ABC News website was presented from day one, even before blogging really popularised reverse-chronological order for publishing on the web.
    It’s not the front page of the ABC News website any more but it’s always been a prominent part of the site.


  4. Yep, on flipping through the library copy of Monday’s The Australian, the thought came “this is terrific value for less than $2, it’s got colour, variety, flair, etc, if I had nothing better to do I’d like to settle down with it for half a day”. And for the $3 to buy the AFR one could be happy reading it for a whole day, and to hell with the news.  I mean, one would not want to be distracted by a terrific article at a major Northern site popping up on the news feeder.
    And how about the new on-line layout at Fairfax?


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