Publishers' latest mobile-engagement trick: the truncated article page

Attracting mobile readers these days is easy, but good luck holding onto them.

As sidedoor visits continue to dominate publishers’ traffic, many are coming up with new ways of holding onto — or at the very least extracting more value from — their mobile readers. For the likes of The New York Times, Huffington Post and Quartz, one successful tactic is the “read full story” button, which appears within articles after a few paragraphs for mobile readers. Visitors who want to actually finish the articles they’ve started reading need to click the button; those that don’t can keep scrolling and are presented with alternate articles, navigation or even display ads.

At the Times, which got 60 percent of its June visitors from mobile, the “show full article button” has resulted in “moderate increase” in the time readers spend, according to Paul Werdel, senior product manager on mobile.

“Our core challenge is being able to communicate the breadth of the content that we have to people who may not be familiar with it as those who read us regularly,” he said.

The Times, which declined to share exact numbers about the button’s performance since it introduced the feature last spring, only shows the button to anonymous mobile and social readers, not those who come directly to the site or are logged in. That’s because social readers bounce at a higher rate than those who come through the front door, forcing publishers to work harder to hold onto them.

The “show full article button” attempts to turn that around by pushing social readers to other articles that they might be interested in, all in the hopes of keeping them on site. The article line-up varies: The Times designed the feature so that readers who click a sports or health article are more likely to get suggestions for sports and health articles, while general interest stories beget more general interest stories.

Quartz, which also introduced its own “read full story” button alongside its design refresh in June, has used the button to boost the performance of its mobile Engage ads, which appear directly below the button. The Huffington Post uses a similar approach, presenting readers with a 300 x 250 banner ad below its own “read more” button. Huffington Post VP of Engineering Sam Napolitano said that preliminary data on the feature has been “very positive” since its addition.


“The button helps because the ad is more likely to be seen, and in that moment, the user can choose to engage with it or carry on reading the story,” said Quartz vp of product and executive editor Zach Seward. He said that there’s no indication that Quartz readers are frustrated by having to click the button to finish stories.

The tactic is just one of the many ways publishers are trying to come to terms with the new mobile reality, which has complicated their ability to both retain readers and make money of them. That has forced publishers to cast a more critical eye on every part of the mobile experience, from their suggested stories to ad placement.

“We’re constantly trying to find the optimal yield for mobile because there’s only so much real estate on the screen We have to make sure that we’re being very consistent and thoughtful about what we’re asking and suggesting our readers to do,” said New York Times product vp Alex Hardiman.