Do we need the “Read More” button?

I have a confession: I hate the “Read more” button.

Like me, you might read your news through Twitter, Facebook, Flipboard, Feed.ly, etc. More and more, I read the news in the method that works for me in the moment — I read news through the relevant app I’m in when I spot an article that sparks my interest. I rarely find myself seeking out news, since it comes to me in my feeds anyway.

This is typically while on the subway, waiting for a friend; when I’m in between one destination or another and I seek intellectual stimuli of some kind.

As a result of my happenstance mobile reading, I’m more often now faced with the dreaded “Read More” button. I’ll be eagerly reading an interesting update on the election, or an interview with an actor I admire. I swipe quickly to get past an ad, then suddenly, I’m lost and have no idea where I am. I’m looking at pixelated click-bait tiles like a lost puppy: Where do I go? What do I do?

I have to remind myself, “OK, I’m a person reading an article on her phone. If I was a UI designer with a clicks-motivated sales rep breathing down my neck, how would I help readers finish this article?

I know! I’d add a button asking them if they want to keep reading!

Because that’s what this button is. It’s a question: 
“Do you want to read more?” 
YES!!! YES I WANT TO READ MORE!!! THAT’S WHY I’M ON YOUR ARTICLE IN THE FIRST PLACE!!!!

Now I understand that most folks don’t have super fast mobile connections. And I like the idea of the “lazy load” of information as I scroll down an article. However, whenever I tap “Read More”, the remaining portion of the article always loads instantaneously, leading me to believe it was loaded anyway, just held back from me for no overt reason.

Usually the button is followed by ads, or “recommended articles.” 
So, how does that work? I haven’t even finished the article I’m on — because I can’t find the rest of it — and I’m supposed to move on to another? I’m working real hard here trying to disprove the notion that millennials are too easily distracted and can’t focus. You’re not making that any easier. I’d like to finish the article I’m on, please, thank you very much.

For example, while reading bostonglobe.com…

And don’t judge me for talking on the phone while reading an article. You do it too.

Is it a trick for me to jump to another article, thereby hitting my max of 5 free articles more quickly? After only partially finishing 5 articles, I likely won’t want to pay for your service, because you’ve hidden more that 50% of the service from me.

Bottom line, I see 4 problems with the “Read More” button…

  1. I scroll quickly on my phone. It’s easy to miss it the button if I’m immediately diving into an article, especially when I want to get past a grotesque ad at the top. I swipe my thumb once or twice, and suddenly I don’t know where I am.
  2. Typically it’s buried between a photo and an ad. I won’t lie, sometimes I momentarily forget what page I’m on, what site I’m on, because I’m looking for the rest of my article on the dwindling honey bee population in between big ads for Sleepy’s Mattresses and Foxwoods casinos.
  3. I often confuse this button with “Subscribe or Log in to keep reading” prompts (which I respect more to be honest, at least they’re being real with me about what they want), as seen on Financial Times or Wall Street Journal. I mistake it for the paywall when I’m actually not there just yet. I get discouraged. I leave.
  4. Real estate: when you consider all the extras that can appear on a mobile page — browser or app chrome, site’s menu bars, a social media bar, ads — you lose valuable space when yet another row is devoted to a button you don’t really need. It’s more noise to which I will eventually become deaf.

Here’s what I’m talking about…

Left to Right — The Wrap, NBC News, CNN, Huffington Post, Quartz, TechCrunch, Vanity Fair, NYTimes, SuperStar Music, Vocativ

So why would you want a “Read More” button?

To play devil’s advocate, here’s what I can guess are benefits of the button.

  1. Garner more hits on ads. Might be accidental, but who cares, right?
  2. Get users to tap on other articles
  3. Reduce quantity of data loaded initially on the page
  4. Maybe it’s enough to just read the headline for most visitors?

To be fair, from where I sit, I can see both sides of this issue. The publication needs to ensure ads are seen, and clicks happen. The user wants to just read their damn article. However, the motivation of the button is given away by how high up on the article it typically is. If the button was always 65% of the way down the article, I could almost forgive that; as if it was asking “Hey, wanna keep going?” to which many times I might reply, “No thanks, I’m good, I get it” and move on.

I’d love to know the analytics side from publishers. Does this button “work”? (i.e. garner clicks on ads? get folks to read more articles?) Does it get tapped most of the time? Maybe I’m in the minority and most people don’t mind, but I have a funny feeling I’m not. Leave your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear what you think.

Ok, one more…

Oh Vanity Fair, where is your style? This is a slightly different “more”, for reading additional caption text. This always drives me nuts.