How infinite scroll threatens to kill the programmatic advertising star

Infinite scroll’s rolling pages mean higher traffic figures and effortlessly improved engagement stats – but is it just a gimmick?

The desire for audience scale and user retention is one that all B2B and B2C content marketers have. The constant appetite for more means that no amplification technique can be ruled out.

‘Infinite scroll’ is the rolling of one page seamlessly into the next and has got plenty of people excited. Why? Imagine being able to point to sky-high engagement statistics (as pages per session rocket) as well as having more prime real estate to sell. Surely this is a veritable win-win for all?

However, in reality, infinite scroll is often little more than a way of keeping a poor content strategy afloat – or at the very least a method of ignoring that the parameters and standards for successful content measurement are forever changed.

It is too easy to hide behind external or technical factors for low engagement metrics, and blame audience multi-screen fixation for dwindling pages-per-session numbers and a diminished time spent on page.

Stop squeezing the lemon

Infinite scroll is an effective but dangerous tool for combatting these issues. A sly CTO, for example, might encourage his or her staff to automatically load numerous pages at once – effectively doubling or tripling their reportable traffic figures. But the damage to brand and product can be extensive.

To get a handle on why this can be so troublesome, it’s important to understand what impact the loading of multiple pages simultaneously can have on programmatic advert revenues.

Scarcity of product is key to getting the best price for each individual banner ‘impression’. The very best programmatic strategies are able to bring the highest quality ad impression to the most relevant buyers most often.

Diluting this ecosystem for the sake of traffic targets and vanity press kits can be disastrous, as competition disappears and more inventory actually leads to less overall revenue per user. This is before you even consider the negative impact on user experience.

A lesson for content

The enduring state of programmatic flux could instead call for a marketing strategy based exclusively on content.

However, struggles relevant to the banner advertising industry do not exist in a vacuum. Advertiser concerns about ad placement and the prospects of an ad actually being seen (i.e. viewability) are issues that should inform questions that content marketers ask themselves. How are generic content metrics reported? And how is success defined against various platforms?

These lessons are indicative of a wider truth: not all page views are created equal. This is particularly the case where user retention is widely experimented with and user journeys are so varied.

It’s a naïve marketer who fails to allow nuance in how they measure content read on desktop versus how it’s consumed on mobile – even if those flagship metrics change over time. The problems around infinite scroll show how relying on fixed, non-evolving measurement metrics is to paper over the cracks of a failing insight strategy.

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