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Tuesday 10 April 2007

Online news readers last longer

The Poynter Institute
has released their annual eye-tracking study of American news sites. This year they compared the differences between how people read the news online vs newspapers.. Their main finding?
Readers select stories of particular interest and then read them thoroughly.

And there's a twist: The reading-deep phenomenon is even stronger online than in print.

At a time when readers are assumed to have short attention spans, especially those who read online, this qualifies as news.
They weren't expecting this result.

As well, it found:
  • Online readers read 77 percent of what they chose to read with broadsheet newspaper readers reading an average of 62 percent, and tabloid readers about 57 percent.
  • Nearly two-thirds of online readers, once they chose a particular item to read, read all the text.
  • People paid more attention to items written in alternative story forms such as a question and answer format or as lists, and preferred documentary news photographs to staged or studio pictures.
  • Subjects paid an average of 15 percent more attention to alternative story forms than to regular story text in print. In broadsheet, this figure rose to 30 percent.
  • 75 percent of print readers were methodical compared to half of online readers. Methodical readers tend to read from top to bottom .
  • Large headlines and photos in print were looked a first but online readers went for navigation bars and teasers.
Although, as some commentators have pointed out, the headline spin about long stories isn't exactly the case simply because print stories are different to online (where they can be shorter, or longer, or enhanced), Poynter says that in the study's details the claim holds true for comparable length stories (medium and long) — people are more likely to completely read stories online.

It's only just out and more holes will be picked but that would be astonishing if it's true.

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