The Slideshow Addicts

Online publishing is a volume game, and it’s only getting worse. The downward pressure on display ad prices has driven publishers to find ways to game the system by generating as many ad impressions as they possibly can.

A favorite tactic is the slideshow, which is used by a growing number of publishers to squeeze more ad revenue from their content. Laying 10 or 15 images out vertically on a page only allows them to serve a handful of ads. Stacking them in a slideshow, however, gives them the opportunity to refresh those impressions as the user clicks to advance each slide. In some cases that allows publishers to trade three or four ad impressions for literally hundreds.

Unfortunately that’s often to the detriment of user experience.

Not all publishers abuse slideshows equally, though. Forbes, for example, milks them for all it can. It serves four new ad impressions for every slide it displays to a user. Meanwhile Business Insider serves up two units with every slide, but the ads themselves only swap out every three slides. In other words, it could be generating three times as many impressions if it wanted to.

With that in mind, Digiday looked around the Web to see how a range of publishers are using their slideshows. Since each of these online galleries consists of a different number of slides, we divided the total number of ad impressions served by the number of slides in each slideshow. We’ll call it the resulting metric the “ads per slide” ratio, or “APS” for short, because the online ad industry needs nothing if not more acronyms.

It’s not an exact science, because not every ad call necessarily results in an ad being served. But ads per slide should serve as an indicator of which publishers are stuffing their slideshows with the most ads.

Another note on the methodology: we counted IAB standard impressions only. We did not include “content” ads such as those provided by companies like Outbrain and Taboola, sponsored content, or other paid links or partnerships. The publishers we selected were done so at random. There are thousands more – and probably plenty more egregious examples – where these came from.

Here’s what we found from a random sample of publisher sites and slideshows we examined, ranked by ads per slide. If there are other sites you’d like to see evaluated, email us and we’ll add them to the list.

Top 10 Most Brand-Loyal Cars
4 IAB display impressions per slide.
10 slides.
40 impressions total.
= 4 ads per slide.

Bleacher Report
7 Minnesota Wild Who Will Have a Major Impact on 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics
4 IAB display impressions per slide, not all refresh with every click.
9 slides.
20 impressions total.
= 2.22 APS.

The Top 100 Hottest Porn Stars (Right Now)
2 IAB impressions per slide.
101 slides including intro slide.
204 impressions total.
= 2.02 APS.
11 Gadgets Inspired by Sci-Fi
2 IAB display impressions per slide.
11 slides.
20 impressions total.
= 1.82 APS.

The Onion
My Name Is Slideshow. Here Is More About Who I Am And What I’m All About.
3 IAB display ads per slide, but ads refresh every third click.
14 slides.
15 impressions total.
= 1.07 APS.

The Stir by CafeMom
8 Beautiful, Natural Nail Polishes Without the Worst Chemicals
1 IAB impression for each slideshow image, 3 impressions elsewhere on page.
9 slides.
12 ad impressions total.
= 1.34 APS.

Business Insider
19 Apps For Your iPhone That Are Better Than The Ones Apple Made
2 IAB impressions per page, ads refresh on every third click.
21 slides, including intro and outro.
14 ad impressions total.
= 0.67 APS.

For the record, Digiday was tempted to do this article as a slideshow but then we remembered we don’t publish slideshows.

Image via Shutterstock
Digiday Top Stories