Sunday, November 09, 2008

Scanners Read More News Content

Eye tracking is a tool used since the mid-90’s by the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau to measure the effectiveness of communication materials like advertisements. It not only measures what works and what doesn’t, but it helps tweak layout and graphics. With the popularity of the Internet as a news source, The Poytner Institute , a school and resource for journalists, uses eye tracking to periodically benchmark the reading habits of online compared to print readers.

People like me, who read a lot of their news via online sources have been characterized as skimmers or scanners implying we read less than printer news readers. But Poytner’s most recent eye tracking survey not only turns that on its head, but confirms that while headline writers and photographers may know less about the contents of a story, they are more important to reader interest and attention:
  • Online readers actually read more deeply (77%) than print counterparts (62%).
  • Two-thirds of online readers read all of a story they selected compared to 59% for newspapers.
  • Print readers are more likely to be methodical and online are more like to be scanners.
  • But both methodical readers and scanners read about the same amount of text.
  • Online methodical readers read 78% of text vs. 77% for online scanners.
  • Print methodical readers read 67% vs. scanners at 59%.
  • Online view navigation first, print read headlines first most often, followed by a photo, followed by another headline.
  • Print ads adjacent to editorial draw as much as full-page ads.
  • Color ads in print draw twice the attention of black and white.

A video summary of the results can be viewed online and a copy of the study purchased online. The Institute is also using eye tracking to determine how readers read news on cell phone or pocket computers.

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