A slideshow with nothing to show

Roger Ebert, film critic and prolific Twitterer, recently criticized The Huffington Post’s use of slideshows this way: “Dear HuffPost: Slideshows are a cheap trick to force more hits. I refuse to play.”

The Huffington Post is certainly not the only site to use weak slideshows to generate clicks. But it does seem to do more than its share of meaningless ones.

Here’s my example of a bad slideshow from HuffPo. The news, as stated in the headline, is a list of “states with the fewest college degree holders.”

After a bit of introductory text, the reader is then invited to click through 13 slides with a Flickr image from each state and the percentage of people who live there who have a college degree, presumably of the four-year variety. (To save you time, I will tell you that Arkansas came in first, or last, depending on how you look at it.)

The choice of images in the slides is curious. For Mississippi, we get a view of a lovely wooded area. For Georgia, we are offered a street scene of Atlanta, including the historic Fox Theater.

The question, of course, is why these images? Why present this information this way? Is it the best way to convey this news, such as it is, to the reader?

The answer to the last question is no. This isn’t a visual story, so the slideshow format is ill-suited to the news. In other words, there’s nothing to see here.

So what would work better? A simple list would. Or, if you are feeling a little bit interactive, you could do what the Chronicle of Higher Education did and present this information as a map that allows the reader to roll over each state and see the percentage of the college-educated population of each one.

For better slideshows, try these sites:

Editors at these sites are matching images and words well to convey information to readers. Their slideshows tell a story.