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.]