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Not Every Article Needs a Picture ( 134

An anonymous reader shares an article: Pictures and text often pair nicely together. You have an article about a thing, and the picture illustrates that thing, which in many cases helps you understand the thing better. But on the web, this logic no longer holds, because at some point it was decided that all texts demand a picture. It may be of a tangentially related celeb. It may be a stock photo of a person making a face. It may be a Sony logo, which is just the word SONY. I have been thinking about this for a long time and I think it is stupid. I understand that images -- clicks is industry gospel, but it seems like many publishers have forgotten their sense of pride. If a picture is worth a thousand words, it's hard for me to imagine there'll be much value in the text of an article illustrated by a generic stock image. As with so many problems, social media seems to deserve much of the blame for this. Until the mid-to-late '00s, a publication's homepage played a dominant role in driving people to individual articles. Homepages mostly mimicked the front pages of newspapers, where major stories -- things that warranted investment in original art -- had images. Other stories just got a headline. Over time, the endless space of the internet lowered the standard for which articles needed art, but still, not everything got an image. [...] Even the unflinching belief that people won't read articles if there aren't pictures doesn't hold up to logic. Sure, interesting pictures can attract readers, but most of these images are not interesting. And even if it were slightly better for business, is that really a compromise worth making?
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Not Every Article Needs a Picture

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  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:30PM (#55542037)

    If "an image for every article" is the current fashion, I worry that could quickly morph to "images and scrolling effects for every article" You already see a ton of that across articles today.

    I find it really distracting, and has the effect often I think of creating a distraction if the scrolling is at all choppy (which it almost always is).

    The fundamental problem is there are so many places that want content now that the little content there is is being stretched super thin, with layers of articles referencing a single original piece of work. I'm not quite sure how to solve that but I think eventually we'll see new approaches that are not quite so insane.

    • by HumanWiki ( 4493803 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:32PM (#55542057)

      Nor should there be 1 picture per page for 25 pages and ignore that you're simply trying to generate more Ad Rev by making me click through page after page.

      I've pretty much stopped reading articles once I see that mess.

    • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:07PM (#55542387) Homepage Journal
      I think it is just another symptom of the dumbing down of the general population....

      You're talking now about a significant number of the populace that can't read a book, even if it has pictures....and people you can ask "who won the civil war", and will either not know the answer, or answer "America?".

      It's just been a steady downhill spiral with the common least denominator dropping at an alarming rate.

      • I think it is just another symptom of the dumbing down of the general population....

        You're talking now about a significant number of the populace that can't read a book, even if it has pictures....and people you can ask "who won the civil war", and will either not know the answer, or answer "America?".

        It's just been a steady downhill spiral with the common least denominator dropping at an alarming rate.

        This guy not sure interrupted me while I was watching Ow, My Balls and that is not ok.

      • by thomst ( 1640045 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @06:46PM (#55543557) Homepage

        cayenne8 opined:

        I think it is just another symptom of the dumbing down of the general population....

        You're talking now about a significant number of the populace that can't read a book, even if it has pictures....and people you can ask "who won the civil war", and will either not know the answer, or answer "America?".

        It's just been a steady downhill spiral with the common least denominator dropping at an alarming rate.

        What you say is true, but I think root causes bear examination (because just bellyaching about societial problems doesn't really accomplish much):

        a. The problem of functional illiteracy in the U.S. is, I think, directly traceable to the policy of teaching reading skills via the "whole word" approach. This method severs each word from the language as a whole, and it actively discourages generalized thinking in new readers. The result of generations of this misguided educational philosophy - which is omnipresent in public school education in this country - is that the vast majority of the population regards reading as a chore, rather than a pleasure. So most Americans avoid it whenever possible. A phonics-centered approach, by contrast, introduces beginning readers to the structural components of language that all English words share: the individual sounds that make up the spoken language, and the syllables that represent them in the written one. It enables the reader to "sound out" unfamiliar words, and to easily grasp that many words are related to a core meaning via prefixes and suffixes. Instead of a laborious process of memorizing vocabulary lists, it encourages the reader to approach discovering new words as an exercise in problem-solving. A puzzle, if you will. Were the public education establishment to discard the disasterous policy of "whole word" memorization - and the incredibly dull, mindlessly repetitive primer texts it has generated - in favor of phonics, students could easily progress from simple, introductory material to much more complex, subtle, and interesting stuff quite rapidly. And thereby learn to love reading, rather than seeing it as a boring chore to be avoided whenever possible.

        b. The abandonment of teaching history and context in favor of "teaching the (standardized educational accomplishment) tests" has robbed millenials, in particular, of an understanding of how we got here. Anything that happened before they entered school is history - and history doesn't interest them. Nor are they alone. We would not have gotten enmired in Iraq (thereby generating legions of extremists bent on jihad against "the crusaders"), had more Americans remembered the cruel lessons of the Vietnam War. But we don't teach that - and students don't read history on their own, because "whole word" methods have actively discouraged them from reading anything.

        c. The omnipresent use of TV as an electronic babysitter - especially given how mind-numbing so much of children's programming is - encourages passivity, and the belief that all problems, no matter how complex or recondite, are handily solvable inside of no more than an hour, including commercial breaks. The current explosion of programming sources, particularly premium-channel cable/satellite and online streaming services, that increasingly are adopting long-form storytelling is encouraging - but it's a trend that programming aimed at children has not adopted.

        d. The millenial generation's reliance on "just in time" knowledge, mostly via Wikipedia, has entirely robbed them of context. They don't study things. They simply look them up on Wikipedia, whenever they have a question about a particular subject. What they don't get is the historical, cultural, literary, or mythological context in which that individual datum exists. Instead, it's a naked factoid, isolated from its antecedants and effects on the fabric of knowledge itself. They get the "what", but not the "

        • Phonics was discredited decades ago as boring and dull for children. They weren't learning, especially most disadvantaged children in our inner cities. We needed an approach that they could excel at.
          • I'm really surprised to hear this. I learned using phonics, as did my kids.

            All the kids I see and interact with (not a lot, but a few) struggle to learn new words. They have no idea how to even sound them out, see the words as ... whole words ... not components that make up the word.

            I don't have any more info than this personal experience. No research, etc. Just was surprised that Whole Word reading was ever better in real life.

          • by thomst ( 1640045 )

            DNS-and-BIND blathered:

            Phonics was discredited decades ago as boring and dull for children. They weren't learning, especially most disadvantaged children in our inner cities. We needed an approach that they could excel at.

            Oh, really? Perhaps you should tell that to the National Institute of Health [], because their 2000 article on the report of the Congressionally-mandated, independent National Reading Panel concludes exactly the opposite. Or, if you require training wheels, you'll have an easier time of it with PBS's summary of the panel's major findings [].

            But, since you have such a well-documented contempt for all things USA, you might be more comfortable referring to the Australian state of New South Wal

        • A phonics-centered approach

          Actually, phonics was exactly how I was taught to read in my early years in school....

          I think it helped me a great deal, but parents, especially my Mom, read to me almost daily as a young child, and I learned to love the *magic* of reading from all that, and was an avid reader from a very young age.

      • I think it is just another symptom of the dumbing down of the general population....

        People have always been dumb, and there is no evidence that they are getting dumber. Every generation has believed that they are the smartest, and the next generation is dumb and lazy. Your parents thought the same thing about your generation.

        • by dillee1 ( 741792 )

          I don't think GP is saying people are getting dumber. Users of the Internet is getting dumber ON AVERAGE.
          Good old Internet was used by educated mass(univeristies, large corp etc). Web2.0 is used by everyone with a smartphone. Of course former group had a higher average IQ. Quality of article of respective period reflect the IQ of audience they are serving.

      • I'm sure there's an inscription in a cave somewhere in the south of France of a group of humans with dark clouds over their heads, dropping a variety of objects (tools, animal skins, meat, and a stylized image of fire) into the outstretched arms of smaller, reclining human figures (evidently children). The interpretation runs "kids 'ese days, never learn nowt for 'emselves, expect us older folk to do everything for 'em".

        (Lower down, a bearded, bent figure is gesticulating wildly toward some smaller people a

    • There is an information glut. There is nothing to "solve" except to accept that there is an information glut, and stop returning to low quality sources of information.

      Most have the same problem, but not all do. What are the people who find a lot of high quality content doing differently? Could it be as simple as the algorithm they use to decide which links to click on, and which to skip over? Does it require always opening links in new tabs so that there is less of a time penalty to closing a newly opened l

      • There is no "information" glut; there is a glut of slightly editorialized versions of "information." Oh, and fscking videos.

        Information is actually more limited than I would have predicted 15 years ago; I expected us to see more people contributing original information to expand the knowledge base of humanity. Instead we got a carrot.

        • And cat videos.

        • I expect you're looking in the wrong places. Knowledge is actively being democratized all over the map. Some might call this a "glut".

          Two decades ago, finding information on every aspect of servicing a car would involve searching up the workshop manual for your vehicle, then figuring it out. $60 to $100 a pop those books, and they still expect you to be trained.

          A decade ago, this information was freely available if you could find the right forum, so long as you're prepared to go through the hazing process o

          • The amount that videos have helped me is significant.

            Videos / Youtube
            Diagnosing and replacing coil on friends fathers car.
            Transmission valve body gasket replacement
            Front end parts replacement
            Painting techniques on auto body
            I.T. - well, just can't imagine how many hundreds I've watched and learned from.
            Cooking howtos
            phone repair / rooting
            dash disassembly

            I could go on. I prefer usually, text. The articles, books, blog posts, whatever that is text format is just endless online. I've contributed, but certainly

        • It is just like Timothy Leary was saying in the 80s; with computers, everybody gets the electrons they deserve!

          "He who controls what enters you mind, controls your brain. You've got to control the screens you're looking at."

          A lot of people enjoy cat videos, and they deserve it. They shouldn't watch something else because somebody thought it was better.

          This week I learned how to program an ATmega238 microcontroller to output NTSC signals. With just a $3 microcontroller I can write to a television through the

    • by Jarik C-Bol ( 894741 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @05:42PM (#55543089)
      Worse, a video for every article, generally with auto-play. And usually all the video consists of is some talking head reciting the article more or less verbatim, with no added information, just a waste of bandwidth.
  • by EdZep ( 114198 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:33PM (#55542071)

    I'll agree that stock photos are lame. BUT, photos are not just about communicating information; photos are also layout elements that break up the huge mass of text, and make an article more readable, or, less intimidating to read. So, I can live with the lame stock photos, as better than nothing.

    • I was about to respond with the same idea, a whole block of text wonâ(TM)t be read and thus the page will be closed quickly. The picture often has the effect of hiding the length of the article until you have at least made a commitment to devoting your time.

      If it was a turn-off or neutral to insert lame pictures, marketing and news companies wouldâ(TM)ve done away with it.

    • by real gumby ( 11516 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:40PM (#55542155)

      Iâ(TM)m the opposite: Iâ(TM)d much rather just have a big block text so I can read it and enjoy it rather than have to move my eye all over the place to get around these pointless pictures that get in the way.

      But I know not everybody is like that. I wish âoereader modeâ really was about reading and would strip all images out

    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:43PM (#55542183)

      Images, even the summary's "SONY" logo, can help the reader prioritize what to read and what to skip. Hell, Slashdot over the years has used a lot of little icons, which are pictures, next to article summaries.

      It is frustrating when stupid stock photos that are too specific for a given article are used, but being able to use iconography to filter-against can be an advantage if it's used properly.

      • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

        Stock photos suck, but the human brain stores information in various ways, and images sometimes give us context we need that a sentence would be insufficient for, context we can much more quickly absorb than a paragraph of explanation.

        IE: "A story about Louis C.K. Hmmm, did I ever see him in anything? I can't remember but the name sounds vaguely familiar." *sees picture* "Oh, THAT guy.. yeah, I remember now, I saw him on some comedy special a few years ago."

        • by TWX ( 665546 )

          Yep. There's a reason the old expression, "a picture is worth a thousand words" was created.

          • There's a reason the old expression, "a picture is worth a thousand words" was created.

            Maybe, but now we have more than 4bpp, the majority of pictures appear to be larger than 64k words, depite the fact that the entire article they "illustrate" has barely 100 words.

            I blame the removal of floppy disk drives from computers for this degradation.

            • by TWX ( 665546 )

              I still have a floppy disk drive in my computer at home. Doesn't seem to have mattered.

        • by nasch ( 598556 )

          "A story about Louis C.K.

          That's an example of a story that benefits from an image. This is about stories where the image adds nothing (or very little). For example, the story about Sony linked in the summary:


          How many stories about the stock market feature a photo of the bull statue? What information or context does that supply to the reader? I would say none.

      • Indeed, and we suffer the opposite problem with "news roundup" articles that only have a single masthead image.

    • You can accomplish nearly the same effect though with graphic elements (think fancy lines and swirls) at occasional points through the text. They have the advantage of not taking you out of the article you are reading by making your brain process what it is seeing in a picture.

      Also it sure seems like a lot of websites that have images in articles have a lot of advertising all around the page (all of which are images), which leads to real image overload and is yet another distraction - your brain has to act

    • by Anonymous Coward

      There are these things called libraries. In these ancient haunts there are paper objects many of which have nothing but continuous text. Apparently these walls of text intimidate some people causing them to flee. This helps make libraries enjoyable places.

  • by DamonHD ( 794830 ) <> on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:33PM (#55542077) Homepage

    Social media and the rest want to see an og:image (or similar) meta tag, should you happen to post a link.

    Once you have selected something suitable for a 'hero' image, you may as well use it to add some colour to your page.

    For me it was near impossible to manage manually on my main site, so I simply have some scripts to manage and insert variants of the basic hero image I selected, so it's nearly free. And yes, I work very hard to keep the page-weight down, coming in an order of magnitude below typical, including the image(s), AFAIK.



    PS. I use very little stock, maybe 2 or 3 total out of hundreds of pages' images.

  • by religionofpeas ( 4511805 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:36PM (#55542103)

    I've also seen tons of stories with a headline similar to "Drone takes amazing pictures of volcano" without the actual picture.

    • Right?

      This annoys the crap out of me!

      If the article is ABOUT something visual - INCLUDE A DAMN PICTURE!!!

  • by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:38PM (#55542121) Homepage

    Forget images. Who decided that when I'm reading a news story -- and this might be a dozen paragraphs of text, now -- I'd want a video of someone reciting a paraphrased version of that same story to play automatically and cover part of the text I'm trying to read?

    • by TheReaperD ( 937405 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:27PM (#55542555)

      I'd live with crappy stock images all day but, down with those damn auto-play videos; especially the ones with NO TEXT TRANSCRIPT! Hear that you damn "news" sites, I want to actually fucking READ the article, not listen to some idiot blather about it, go off-topic, then offer his/her opinion without actually offering much in the way of facts. Next up is the articles broken into multiple pages to try and maximize the ads shown on a page. Worst I've seen so far is 13 pages for 13 paragraphs of text. Ridiculous! Whoever was responsible for that should be fired on the spot.

    • Not just videos, but videos that load and play automatically. If I want to watch the video, when the transcript of the video is right below it, then I'll take the fraction of a second to hit play. I have to pay for my bandwidth and I don't appreciate someone demand that I must have text, video, and sound, all giving me the same information.

      If you demand I have scripting enabled on your site then expect me to simply close the page without reading your article or viewing your adverts. You want adverts on t

    • When I see an image i thank god it is not a video!
    • by kbahey ( 102895 )

      Forget 'reciting'. That is not too bad.

      How about videos that have walls of text that you have to read instead of an audio/visual experience?

      The videos are not narrated at all or for the most part. You have walls of text, which distracts from the video itself, and takes more concentration than just a video with audio narration.

      Non other than BBC News has been going down that abyss.
      When I complained to them, I got back platitudes ...

    • CNN and Video (Score:4, Insightful)

      by ripvlan ( 2609033 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @05:43PM (#55543101)

      Sometime ago CNN decided that every article required a Video to go with it. Yes - sometimes the video is the TV broadcast recording of the article.

      But **many** times the video has little to do with the article itself. For example if Boeing is having an off year the accompanying video might have to do with the launch of the 787 Dreamliner from a few years ago. And then when the video is finished playing it just moves onto whatever video is next available. Somebody was tasked with "find a video" and they do. One cannot watch the selected video and be informed about the actual Text of the article.

      Think of all the used bandwidth due to this. Not that I've looked hard - but I haven't found an easy way to block their new video platform. Used to be I could block Flash until clicked.

  • The other day a local TV news piece was showing meaningless clips of the Netflix interface instead of items pertaining to the fake account info site the story was about. Not quite needing no picture, but still, making the wrong choice.
  • by vanyel ( 28049 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:41PM (#55542163) Journal

    i.e. facebook's all too common mode of putting large font text in a big block of color - social media's version of all caps SHOUTING in my mind. Apparently people can't read normal sized text...

    • The hilarious thing to me about that is I've been conditioned to see those blocks of color with words as typically being a copy paste from elsewhere. I frequently just keep scrolling without even attempting to read it because I presume it isn't something my friend actually wrote.

  • by chispito ( 1870390 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:42PM (#55542171)
    How will we know a story is about a legitimate cyber security threat without a picture of a kid in a black hoodie?
  • I find way too often the picture is much more interesting than the article..
  • My God the underlined text being animated is more offensive than having to put photos with every article.
  • If only... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:44PM (#55542191)
    If only modern articles didn't require 50 megs of JavaScript( mostly in the form of bloated libraries ) just to display! Yes, I'm exaggerating, but holy shit modern websites are a waste of bandwidth in general for what little information they provide. And fuck Animated GIFs to high hell! These stupid little animations are often 100s of megs in size and that's not an exaggeration.
  • Irony (Score:5, Funny)

    by barbariccow ( 1476631 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @03:49PM (#55542233)
    In utter irony, linked TFA when clicked displays a full screen image before you can scroll down and actually read the story.
    • In utter irony, linked TFA when clicked displays a full screen image before you can scroll down and actually read the story.

      Not in Lynx!

  • So where is the petition to address this issue and influence an end to this photophilia? Can I surf to and sign it?

  • Are you putting this concept on Linux?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Videos are huge waste of time for me. I'm a reader and find that that most videos that run for minutes only really contain a paragraph's amount of information that I could read in a few seconds.

  • break them up into 20 pieces and display them in a 'slide show' format where every page has a dozen images and a bunch of advertising. If you have your brain turned off, you only realize after slide number 10 that the whole thing is fake and not leading anywhere at all and quit.
  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:14PM (#55542457)
    Many times (specifically in online newspapers) the introductory picture is used to say what would be completely unacceptable in the text.

    So if your content is to appear in a biased, bigoted, populist, publication (I realise that doesn't narrow the field very much) then having a face of a member of whichever group you wish your readers to associate with whatever the article is about, speaks volumes that you couldn't possibly put into words.

    It's like the music in a film's sound track. It "tells" us when we should feel sad. it programmes us to expect danger. It builds up tension, fear, light-heartedness. So the pictures do the same for an article.

    For newspapers and corporations that feel they are too "enlightened" to specifically mention the race, gender, creed or age of someone - then a photo of them does the job without them dirtying their hands with a specific -ism.

    And hopefully, the audience won't notice when one of those images just happens to be an advertisement!

  • by superdave80 ( 1226592 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:20PM (#55542501)
    Webpages in the last five years have turned into absolute shit I find that I can barely surf the web without some type of adblocker installed. And most webpages seem to have the urge to randomly refresh themselves, which causes whatever I was planning on clicking on no longer being in that spot where my mouse/finger is, and I wind up clicking on something else that I didn't intent to. And I can't blame it on just click-baity or news sites, because even the login pages for my finances (banks, credit card, etc.) seem to randomly reload as well, forcing me to start all over typing in my credentials. I think the people that design websites now don't actually ever USE their own website.
  • Not every slide needs a graphic. Seriously, just explain the concept instead of throwing up some kooky graphic pulled out of the depths of your arsehole to try illustrate something complex.
  • Saw this with my kids textbooks. Honors textbooks are generally small and thin, presumably from lack of pictures.
  • Form over function (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuietLagoon ( 813062 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:36PM (#55542629)
    It doesn't matter if it works, or if it is easily readable, so long as it looks "cool." That seems to be the motto of web designers nowadays. Between the low contrast text, the excessive scrolling and images for the sake of having images, the quality of the web's usability has plummeted.

    Now, you'll have to excuse me. There are some kids on my lawn I need to chase away....

  • by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday November 13, 2017 @04:40PM (#55542659) Homepage Journal

    Remember when information density was a thing? On my glorious 30", 1600px-high display at work, this page takes THREE screenfuls. []

    Select all, copy, paste, word count: 298 words.

    As for file size, the page itself -- no includes -- is 650k. When I save as an archive with scripts and images, it's 4.5 MB.

    FOR ONE FUCKING PAGE. With 298 words. Unreal.

    And this page, from Apple: [] -- long rant at []

    TL;DR: 1,049 vertical pixels are used for SIX lines of text.

  • I would never include gratuitious image [] in anything I published. Never!
  • Far, far too often I see an online article *about* something visual, which does NOT include a picture.

    If your article is about say "new animal discovered in the Blargh Desert", there is *absolutely* no excuse NOT to include a photo.

    Don't have one yet? Wait until you damn well do!

  • I agree with a log of the comments here, esp. about those full-screen pics that you have to scroooollllll past before you can even begin to read.

    OTOH, a picture can serve as a shortcut for a summary, or help to create interest. For better or worse, the web is largely a visual medium.

    In my own case, I started publishing my (technical) blog without pictures, and it just looked boooorrrrrrrinng. So I started sticking whimsical little pictures next to the lede, and I have to say that I think it looks a lot be

  • On Slashdot you don't even need words. Just a topical headline and it's an instant 200 comments

  • It would have been nice for the submitter to include a screenshot of a good example.

  • 1. Images whose content is 100% textual in nature (usually, as some ham-handed DRM)
    2. Videos that are largely or entirely slideshows of static images with narration OVERLAID AS CAPTIONS.
    3. Video captions laid directly into the video so that they do not disappear when you unmute the audio.

  • All news sites do it these days. You go to read something and there it is, a great big video set to auto-play about some topic that's kinda related to the same subject, but nothing to do with the headline that got your attention in the first place. These things are a plague and the sooner reputable news sites stop doing this, the better their subscriptions might be.

  • ...reading this post, I scrolled past. Until I thought "wait, interesting point". I scrolled up. Then down again, then back up, forcing myself to read the entire post.

    He's right, of course. The problem is diminishing attention spans force authors to 'illustrate' their articles to grab attention -- the eye imbibes images faster than text. Sometimes it's well done -- the author went to upwork and commissioned original art by an artist -- sometimes not (stock images). Now attention spans are diminishing furthe

  • So - now all news articles have to go dredge up a good twitter quote. So they quote the twitter feed (all 280 characters of it now) and then do a paste of the actual twitter post formatted by twitter in the article. Hmmmm.... so if I can't read the article - Maybe I can read the twitter feed (usually with its own picture of course).

    Hate it - about to quit reading news on the web again because of this trend

  • And articles are almost Never made better by an (autoplay) video. Just let me read what it has to say!
  • Now that I think about it, this a great application for AI helpers: Paste a plain text file in your CMS and allow that a plugin helper (AI driven) suggests different Typographic presentations using only free web fonts...
  • by doom ( 14564 )
    No, every article needs the biggest possible stock picture you can find. How would I identify news about Trump without another extreme closeup of his face making one of his characteristically intelligent expressions?
  • In the old days of newspapers, articles were fit together on paper and pictures help "soften" the text by breaking it up into smaller chunks. Also, people are more likely to read an article if the author's picture is also featured. So, it is really just an effort of the publisher to get more eyeballs on the article.
  • Not very infrequently, I use an image block extension to block the images in websites like the ones reported in the article.

Heuristics are bug ridden by definition. If they didn't have bugs, then they'd be algorithms.