Sites like Medium, The Atlantic, Quartz and ReadWrite have all created desktop designs with large, gigantic images that largely obscure the content below them.
Part of the rationale has to do with the decline of the homepage. Large photos are often used by publishers as a way of providing texture to a homepage and making a brand impression. The article page, in a homepage-dominant construct, has a more utilitarian purpose. But with most traffic now coming to article pages, it means article pages have to do more of the heavy lifting of home pages.
Publishers like these designs because they feel more premium, and premium means bigger ad dollars. But designers say that these sorts of designs feel more tactical than strategic, particularly when publishers use the templates for stories that don’t really need them.
There’s also the reader-experience issue. Clicking around the Web nowadays can be exasperating, requiring the constant scrolling past oversized images to get to what you want.
(1) Is this a case of publishers putting advertisers over users in the short term, at long term cost to their audience? Or, as a user, do you like large photo headers?
(2) We’ve avoided large photo headers on articles at Seeking Alpha because we optimize for frequent users. Our frequent users want rapid access to information and fast page load times. See, for example, our tech news dashboard.