Shocking News: Online Readers Actually Have An Attention Span

from the and-it's-not-that-short dept

There's been plenty of talk the web shortening people's attention spans, but the latest Eyetrack study from the folks at the Poynter Institute has found instead that online news readers are actually much more likely to read to the end of news stories than those who are reading news stories offline. Of course, it's not that hard to figure out why: newspapers lose an awful lot of readers when they put in a "go to page 14 to continue." It ruins the entire flow of reading a news story, and it's the point at which anyone who's not fully engaged simply gives up. Still, it does say something that people do tend to read to the end of online news stories, rather than being quickly distracted by the next random viral video on YouTube.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    yogi, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 3:55am

    or perhaps this is a case of selection bias, comparing apples to oranges?
    Just imagine how primitive and backwards those people who are reading offline papers must be! No wonder they can't finish anything...it's just not fair to compare them to intelligent, wise,sagely folk such as read this here techdirt blog.

     

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    Tom Stark, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 4:08am

    Attention Span

    Could someone paraphrase the above story for me. I stopped reading before the end.

     

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    Wolfger, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 4:33am

    I dunno...

    Judging by some comments I see (here, Slashdot, anyplace that has a place for readers to talk about the story), people tend to hit the reply button *way* before they've finished reading.

     

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      scuzzbukket, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 7:42am

      Re: I dunno...

      Judging by Wolfgers comments I see he has a stick shoved *way* up his ass. Just hope he doesn't choke on it.

       

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    The Swiss Cheese Monster, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 4:50am

    Readers have an attention sp....

     

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    Florian, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 4:55am

    Or maybe that's because when you read something online, it's usually more an expressed choice than in a newspaper where you follow the flow printed on the paper.

    Even more on sites where you have to click on an headline to read the full text.

     

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    comboman, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 5:16am

    Webpages lose readers too

    Newspapers lose an awful lot of readers when they put in a "go to page 14 to continue."

    Webpages also lose readers when they do a similar trick, breaking an article into 10 or 20 pages with one paragraph on each page (more room for ads that way).

     

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      willie lump lump, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 6:31am

      Re: Webpages lose readers too

      Agree. Sites that do this often have bad formatting and lots of ads to slow down rendering the page. Each click on the "2|3|4|5 next" is an opportunity to re-evaluate if the article is giving you what you are seeking. I have noticed it affects whether I finish an article or not.

       

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        SmartAssWhizKid, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 7:05am

        Re: Re: Webpages lose readers too

        "Agree. Sites that do this often have bad formatting and lots of ads to slow down rendering the page. Each click on the "2|3|4|5 next" is an opportunity to re-evaluate if the article is giving you what you are seeking. I have noticed it affects whether I finish an article or not"

        I never click to page two. Reuters is terrible for this.

         

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        Mike S, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 7:44am

        Re: Re: Webpages lose readers too

        Ummm... I thought I was the only one to do this too! Reuters sucks when it comes to a good story being broken up by 5 pages and only 2-3 paragraphs per page. NYT online is pretty good at making sure the story isn't broken up too much.

         

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    AC, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 5:48am

    It's not what is read, it's where...

    I think there's one huge difference: newspapers are predominantly read during a person's leisure time, whereas a lot of online articles are read at work. So I think the competition for one's time isn't quite fair in this study: when a person's reading a newspaper article, he might stop early because he's watching TV at the same time, or decides to do something else entertaining. If he's reading an article at work, it's often a diversion from...work.

     

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    David, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 6:28am

    ...

    I certainly do not read the whole article online or in the papers most of the time. Where did this study come from?

     

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    Casper, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 6:56am

    Literate?

    Are they sure that everyone they test were reading? I know I pretend to read a lot when I'm at work, but really I'm sleeping with my eyes open. Also, before my coffee, I have been known to follow lines of text with my eyes as if I were reading, but not actually see any of it.

    Just to add to my random thought; I hate news papers. They keep delivering it to my place and I can't make them stop. One of these days I'm going to cram it down the paper boys throat. It's like people handing out fliers and pamphlets... they are basically saying "Here, you throw this away".

    Yeah, it's random, I make a little more sense after I have my coffee.

     

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      TheDock22, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 7:20am

      Re: Literate?

      I hate news papers.

      I totally agree. They aren't good for anything save the Sunday ads and making silly paper viking hats for a sporting event. Oh wait, occasionally I use a newspaper to cover the floor when I'm working on a craft project. But actually reading it and getting black ink all over my hands?

      No thanks, I'll stick with my super-clean keyboard (I disinfect and clean is daily).

       

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      Wyn, Mar 30th, 2007 @ 6:16am

      Re: Literate?

      You know why they do that? Because every distributed newspaper counts as a view (or reader), which makes them look better to advertisers. It doesn't matter whether you actually read it or not.

       

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    scuzzbukket, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 7:37am

    This is so hurtful and offensive

    You know I'm really offended by this story. To say that I ,as an internet user don't have much of an attention span.
    I think that is just wrong...is that girl bending over not wearing any panties...
    anyway, I lost track of what I was saying, but if I know most readers of this section, they will only read the first sentence anyway.
    So who cares.

     

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    Ted Goas, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 9:09am

    Online Stories Less Imtimidating Than Newspapers?

    I don't know, are they? I rarely read newspapers, and almost never follow articles in magainzes to the back section. However, I read an hour or two of news online each day. While the articles that have 5 or more pages usually lose me after the first page, I almost always read articles to the end. I never thought about it, but after reading the original story, the study's findings make complete sense to me.

    Webpages do lose readers, but many are designed not too (as many commenters have pointed out).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 2:09pm

    Or maybe its because of how sites online provide the summary and then link to the article.. if all you wanted was the summary, you got it without even going to the article. So this removes from the population viewers that are early quitters.

     

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    Dosquatch, Mar 29th, 2007 @ 4:46pm

    I have an attention sp

    Lookit! Monkeys!

    Hum? Somebody already did the obvious jokes? Sorry, I didn't make it that far.

    Oh, somebody already hit that one, too? Well, damnit, nevermind then.

     

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