For a few hours today, I ran a little experiment on The Deets to see what I could learn about auto-refresh. J.D. goaded me with the idea on Twitter and I couldn’t resist.
After J.D.’s tweet, I set up an auto-refresh on the post I wrote about how stupid auto-refreshes are. In my attempt to act like a mainstream publication that serves ads to people who don’t see them, I took things even further than the StarTribune, Washington Times, or even Drudge by implementing a 1 minute refresh rate. Yes, every 60 seconds, that blog post (and also the site’s homepage where that post was displayed) automatically reloaded.
What did I find out? Dang, that can really pump up the page views. My average page views per visitor and time on site stats more than doubled over that time period. Sure, people couldn’t finish reading the post or leave a thoughtful comment without the page refreshing, but at a high level my stats sure looked good.
Did it increase my revenue? No. I don’t have impression based advertising on the site (well, maybe 1% is CPM) so I didn’t benefit financially from this experiment.
The larger downside was receiving comments, emails, text messages, and IMs from smart people I respect who were complaining about how crappy their experience on my website had suddenly become. Sure, I went overboard with the refresh rate, but it was enough to remind me of something I consider valuable:
Don’t create crappy experiences for people you respect when they’re trying to consume your content.
Do enough of that and you’ll lose them. This may help explain why the comments suck so bad on mainstream media sites. People that I know and respect don’t spend their time wading into cesspools.
This seems like something advertisers should be taking into consideration when buying online advertising. Where are the people you respect – and would like to know and do business with – spending their time online?