Daily Placebo

  • Thursday, March 29, 2007
  • Did You Read The Whole Thing?

    Right on the heels of that multitasking article where I basically accuse you of having ADHD, I also applaud you for reading news on the net.  Cause while, some aspects of computers seem to reduce users' attention spans, online news readers actually tend to finish articles they start.  At least moreso compared to their inky handed counterparts.

    A study tracked readers' eye movements for 30 days as they read news for 15 minutes from online periodicals, print newspapers, or print tabloids.  They found that online readers tended to read 15% more than print readers.  And a full 2/3 of online readers actually finished the whole article.

    Techdirt lays this all on the "continued on page 14" truncation that tends to happen in print, and while I think that's a part of it I can't help but ponder other reasons for the disparity.  It might be that online articles are shorter, or aren't written at that insulting 10th grade level (mine are usually just insulting), or there's maybe more information.  But I'd like to attribute it to targeted content; at least that's what I glean from "Just 25% of print readers are scanners, who scan the entire page first, then choose a story to read."  If you just started reading things as they are presented to you (by an editor or general aggregator  that tries to meet the need of every reader) you'll naturally run across quite a few articles that you, quite honestly, don't give a rat's ass about.  So I think its our learned behavior of actively searching for information on the Internet that accounts for the difference.  Its a naturally interactive experience, rather than having something (literally) brought to you in print.

    Take that one step further and don't just read through the pages of a single online periodical.  RSS that noise.  If you're scanning an RSS reader, you've personally selected the sources that contribute to it because they tend to post things that interest you.  If you get through scanning the headline and want more, chances are you'll want to finish the article.  Targeted content baby, its like a rodeo clown with a pooper-scooper; without it there's just a bunch of bullshit.

    digg it

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