Online Newspaper Readers Pay Closer Attention?

Spotted via Search Engine Watch, Poynter Online reports on an eyetracking study comparing online and print newspaper reader behavior. The shocking result: online newspaper readers spent more time with the articles they selected:

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.

That was the predominant behavior of roughly 600 test subjects — 70 percent of whom said they read the news in print or online four times a week. Their eye movements were tracked in 15-minute reading sessions of broadsheet, tabloid and online publications. Evidence from these sessions revealed how long readers spend with the stories they pick, as well as a host of other details about reading patterns.

Online users read more of what they selected and 2/3 of online readers read all the text of stories. What this clearly suggests is that online newspaper readers are more engaged than traditional newspaper readers. But one way of looking these results is: the difference between “search” vs. “browse” behavior (as metaphors). Online newspaper readers may be more focused (“searching”) and thus more engaged vs. print readers who are more casually going through (“browsing”) the print newspaper.

There’s much more detail and color from an audio/video presentation of the top-level results. There are also specific layout/visual recommendations for online news story formats.

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