Dallas Morning News Website Decides It’s Got to Have More Cowbell (Cheap Pageviews)

As Peter noted this morning, NBC5 anchor Jane McGarry was arrested on a DWI charge over the weekend. So today The Dallas Morning News decides it’s the perfect opportunity for a career-retrospective photo gallery of McGarry. (Her mug shot was left out.)  Also teased on the Morning News homepage right now is a gallery of “Local Artist Sarah Jaffe through the years.” You know, all the way from the year 2007 to the year 2012.

Galleries like this are used by websites to raise the number of pageviews they can brag about. Never mind that there’s nothing particularly interesting or educational about the McGarry gallery. Someone on the DMN.com team knows that McGarry’s name is a trending search term locally, and, by gum, they’re going to suck some of those searchers into a gallery of banal photographs in order to spike the numbers. DMN has long had galleries, but I don’t recall the last time I saw them post anything that’s quite as blatant a pageview grab as those today.

The Morning News isn’t alone in sticking with the belief that all pageviews = valuable site traffic. The Washington Post editor recently encouraged his staff to create more slideshows. And locally no one can touch the enthusiasm of the CW33’s website, home to Guess Whose Assets? and Stretch, Flex & Warm Up.

But, as The Atlantic puts it, it’s a brand-damaging strategy to post slideshows regardless of quality or usefulness to the reader:

That won’t be visible to you in your analytics, but what reader of the Internet has not felt that pang: “This site doesn’t really value me or my time.” You can get a page view spike that’s actually a negative for your brand. And the more the slideshow spreads because of a clever headline or just because the topic is hot, the farther that brand damage spreads. Congratulations! You juiced the stats with an invisible poison!

(You’re maybe going to accuse me of living in a glass house, since I’m the editor of D Magazine‘s web operations, and I can not claim that we’ve never posted a series of images in such a way as to increase our pageview numbers. But we try not to do that.  We even take care with our regular Nightlife galleries to collect the names of the people that we photograph, since we consider that an important part of our coverage, instead of just vomiting a bunch of pictures of unidentified scantily-clad women at you.)

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