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Pretty pictures :a question of blog aesthetics.

Is a blog that uses pictures in its posts more likely to succeed that a blog that posts identical content but doesn’t use the pictures? Sure, we know that there are many other considerations in the success or otherwise of a blog, but take a pure economists view of a perfect market where both blogs are identical in every other way. We know that the quality of content is important, but I’ve come to a rather interesting conclusion, at least in the field of consumer and general interest blogs (as opposed to political blogs): blog aesthetics matter, and the prettier the pictures in your posts the more likely you are to succeed.

This in itself causes me a great deal of stress, mainly because editing and uploading pictures is slow in comparison to the creation of content. WordPress doesn’t allow you to just paste a picture directly into a post, and I’m presuming that other DIY packages are similar. The case in the free market may be a little different, for memory I believe you can cut and paste using blogger, but at the end of the day as a Problogger you’re more likely to be using a DIY or Paid hosting package as opposed to a freebie. The second point of stress is the extra demands on your site in terms of bandwidth: pictures slow down site loading times and cause bandwidth to be gobbled up at a faster rate. My immediate example is my new Weblog Empire Blog: The Gadget Blog, lots of pictures here, which are necessary and I’ll add are working a treat, but the bandwidth usage is 4 times that of the Blog Herald over similar visitor numbers. In other words pictures can also cost money.

The consideration though is whether the expenditure on pictures is rewarded by increased traffic and repeat visitor numbers. I’m thinking yes at this stage, although I’d welcome everyone’s views.

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Comments

  1. HART says:

    Greetings. Good Topic.

    I don’t think every post has to be filled with pictures (unless it’s a picture blog of course), but I do think pictures makes it easier to read and focus in our newsfeeders, we who sign up for XML/RSS feeds etc.I am getting annoyed with the feeds I first selected that just show ONLY the subject heading, and a link “Read On” …

    My blog is more topic oriented, so I browse for specific topics. I also browse non-specific topics too. I click —> next…next..next.nextnextnext and seem to be going faster and faster. I recall looking at the headline when I hit “next” but, after then next headline, I usually forgot what it was. Usually, when that happens, I figure I’m not really utilizing that feed anyway, so I delete it from my newsfeeder.

    Blogs or news feeds with pictures, on the other hand, seem to slow the pace down .. it’s more like .. next …next … next … (instead of nextnextnext) I can see both the subject, in most cases the entire blog or at least a good portion of it, with a caption picture.

    So, does that make any sense? I think in cases of scanned feeds, pictures definately bring more traffic. How much more? I hope it’s not a big difference, becaue I’m with you – it’s aggrevating loading up pictures to my OWN server to be embedded with my blogger.com blog.

    PS: your blog never shows up in my newsfeeder with any pictures, and only the first two lines are displayed “…a pure economists view of a perfect market where both blogs [...]” then it says… “Read On”

    Take care
    HART

  2. Gadgets and porn are obvious examples of sites that must have pictures. In general, though, our screens are filled with graphic content and it’s a pleasure to switch to the blogs where there’s some reading matter and a bit of thought involved. Images can become an indulgence. Robin Good’s must-read blogs always start with a professional, slightly relevant, photograph, but it’s just another chore to scroll past it to the content. My own preference is for lots of white space and balanced text, with sudden splashes of intense colour. If that colour holds your ad message, I reckon it really hits home. But then I’m not a marketing expert :-)

  3. Ben Helps says:

    I’d say less is more. Images lose their impact if overused, and annoying animated image ads just desensitise people further. By only splashing an image up when it’s related to the post and adds something to it, they maintain their appeal. Of course, if you serve up shabby looking images … (not saying *you* do)

  4. Lumpy says:

    Nice blog you got here. FYI , Movable Type will not allow you to paste photos into it directly but you can add the img tag and it will allow it to show in the preview and it will pop up in the blog body.
    I just thought you might like to know.

  5. I’ve opted to avoid using pictures because of the bandwidth and time requirements, but I must admit that I do like reading sites that use them.

  6. Ken says:

    As a photographer, there are ways to opitmize images that aren’t taking up so much space. Web images don’t need as much color or size so they can be compressed even further, thus cutting on bandwidth costs.

    I’d look into if people were optimizing images or not.

  7. Darcy says:

    We try to use as many pictures as possible with our blog, we feel the reader is going to benefit from and enjoy seeing pictures of the destinations that we’re featuring each day. The feedback we’ve gotten has been very positive on that front.

  8. dave park says:

    I try to have each post have a corresponding picture. As a blog reader it breaks up the text and sometimes I’ll read a post based on the picture alone. I like the default setting at typepad which gives you a small thumbnail versus a large picture that may take a while for readers to download.

  9. TDavid says:

    If using pictures and the site accumulates any degree of success then probably should lock the image directories down using htaccess. You’ll get some people who whine about not being able to hotlink your pictures, but let them pay for their own bandwidth. You can help reduce the complaints by adding the online RSS aggregators to your accepted hotlinking list.

    Also make sensible-sized pictures: 30k or less if possible. I’ve seen some blogs with several 150k pictures on the home page. This is a recipe for huge bandwidth bills and it irritates surfers who aren’t prewarned they are entering a bandwidth heavy page/site.

  10. Ken says:

    Good points about the photos TDavid.

    Photos being taken or linked back to is a HUGE problem, watermarking works, but it sort of defeats the purpose of having a photo.

    Unfortunately, peoples attitudes about photos are the same for music, a who cares attitude.

  11. Gone Away says:

    I’m a writer and the reason for my blog is writing. On rare occasions I will use a picture but it is very subordinate to the text. It’s true that pictures help to draw people into an article but the extra loading time is not their only downside. I’m looking for readers – it may be good for traffic figures to catch the picture-oglers but how good are they to me longterm? By offering text, text and more text, the people I catch are more likely to be those who’ll stay and appreciate what I’m doing. Or is that too extreme an attitude?

  12. Bill Peschel says:

    I use pictures on both my main blog (where appropriate), and it’s pretty much required on Modern Kitsch, where part of the fun is in showing how terrible some things can be. But you’re right in that I feel inhibited sometimes when I don’t feel like opening up FireWorks, editing the picture, putting in the code, uploading and tweaking (I rarely get it right the first time).

    I hate to read long posts on the computer; if it’s really compelling, I’ll print it out. But it’s a paradox to non-writers to say that writing a short post takes much more work (spent boiling down the content to its essentials and coming up with compelling phrases).

  13. I use pictures quite a bit on The Rock and Roll Report since I like to show what an album or band looks like. I am starting a new blog in the next few weeks dealing with radio and that one will probably use minimal or no photos. It really all depends on the content IMHO.

  14. kazi says:

    Gadget blog must have images.You can make page load time better if you have 10 or 15 post per page. Congratulation to Web Empire Gadget Blog!!!
    FYI, I am finding Word Press doing better job with images, all you need to do is learn the image code!!!

  15. Melissa says:

    Ratio of picture to posts does not have to be 1:1. But it sure does break the monotony of reading texts when you have a beautiful picture (that is relevant to the post) in between. When I browse and check new sites, I sometimes do not take the trouble of reading everything (hence, missing some good stuff a lot of times) but if a nice visual is there, I might be convinced to stay and read. Or, maybe it’s just me. I need my visuals :)

  16. David says:

    I throw in a picture every now and then, but really…I have a gallery for images that allows me to have information and allows comments…so why would I plaster my blog full of them other than to illustrate a point.

  17. Stan says:

    Hot Topic! Where do you get pictures? Well I’ll re-phrase, where do you get pictures that aren’t copyrighted? I have a couple of new Blogs and one is a Sports Blog, SporTalker.com. I would love to have photos like they have on AP and the like, but I haven’t paid for them—so…what’s “legal”? Where do I go? Thanks in advance! –Stan

  18. Ken says:

    There is “fair-use” but you would still be taking a risk.

  19. duncan says:

    Fiar use is a complicated issue mainly because you quite often don’t know the origin of the picture to start with. Generally speaking if you use part of a image you are safer than a whole image, for example I’d never just save an image directly from a site and then re-use, and naturally displaying an image inline from another site is always a no-no. Fair use between blogs is another matter again, particularly in Gadgets the same picture will pop up on 20 different sites, sometimes with the original water mark still in place.

  20. Ken Musante says:

    I dedicate the occasional post on my blog to photos. I haven’t noticed an increase in traffic from them, but I haven’t tried integrating photos with my regular posts yet. Blogger makes it easy since you can upload images with their Hello program.

    The only down side is that any post with photos can only be created with the photos and captions. If you want to integrate a photo with a normal blog post you have to upload the photo first, thereby creating the post, and then edit it to add your text. Their WYSIWYG editor actually makes this easy since the photo shows up right there, but the extra step is a pain.

    The images tend to load quickly since they’re hosted by Blogger, same as the rest of the page.

    The hard part, I find, is deciding what photos to take for a particular post. I love my 5MP Sony DSC-T3, but he doesn’t get out much.

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