A picture used to be worth a thousand words. Now, it’s worth a thousand pageviews.
Every month, we give out a People’s Choice award to the article or content file that attracts the greatest digital audience. This involves an analytical measurement of traffic to our various digital platforms — mobile, tablet and online.
Last month, the winner was a photo gallery of the Salt Lake City Undie Run, shot by photographer Nick Short.
The images were no more risque than what you would see at a public pool or beach. Still, a photo gallery with the words “undie run” obviously is going to draw a lot of online attention.
In this case, the slideshow garnered more than 35,000 pageviews in the first couple of hours after it was posted.
We wouldn’t consider this enough traffic to be considered “going viral,” but it does show an increasing trend.
It is no secret that visual images draw a lot of online traffic. That’s why most news sites try to post an image with every story, even if it means coming up with a stock photo of an ambulance or police car for a breaking news story.
Pageviews aren’t the same as unique visits, as one visitor can generate multiple pageviews.
However, even taking that into account, many of the slideshows we post outdraw their companion news stories. This is especially true with prep sports coverage.
When it comes to girls sports, the slideshows of volleyball and soccer matches may generate as many as 10 times more pageviews than the stories. The galleries of girls in sports, in general, attract much more traffic than the galleries of boys in sports.
We have seen the same trend of more views for photos than text in news stories as well. In most weather-related disaster stories, the slideshows sometimes draw more traffic than the stories. We saw that recently with the coverage of Hurricane Sandy.
I’m not sure if that is an indicator of a decreasing attention span on the part of the public, or the fact that many people still get their information from traditional news sources — print, radio and television — and go online to see additional images.
We run many more photos online than we do in print. A lot of readers who go to our websites click on at least one of the slideshows we put up on a daily basis. Because of this, we are posting more and more.
The popularity of digital photo galleries is not just limited to those produced by staff photographers.
We’ve had a lot of success with contributed photos from readers. We got more than 50 submissions for photos of Halloween yard decorations, and dozens of readers sent in photos they took of the recent snowstorm.
We created running galleries from these submissions that we updated on a regular basis.
We’ve found that mixing reader contributions with our own coverage gives a more complete, and sometimes entertaining, portrait of the communities and people we serve.
Andy Howell is executive editor. He can be reached at 801-625-4210 or firstname.lastname@example.org.