Online readers read more news in the US than newspaper buyers

Website readers in the US are apparently more assiduous consumers of news than those who buy newspapers.

That's according to a new survey presented at this week's annual conference in Washington of the American Society of Newspaper Editors. The amount of time that website readers spend on the news, compared with newspaper readers, surprised – and even somewhat dismayed – the delegates to the conference.

The survey disclosed that when readers choose to read a story on-line they usually read about 77 per cent of the story. Compared to 62 per cent in broadsheets and 57 per cent in tabloids.

The survey involved subjecting 600 newspaper readers to an electronic eye-tracking device, which they wore while reading newspapers and the on-line editions of their newspapers. Readers spent l5 minutes during each reading session over a 30 day period. The researchers admitted they were stunned by the numbers.

The main finding was that more text is read online than in print. Nearly two thirds of on-line readers read all of the text of a specific story once they started reading it. Among print readers 68 per cent of tabloid readers continued reading after the jump to another page, among broadsheet readers it was 59 per cent. The survey also found that 75 per cent of print readers are methodical, which means they start reading a page at a particular story and work their way through each story. Just 25 per cent of print readers are what they researchers called "scanners" who survey a whole page first before choosing a story to read. On-line about half of those surveys were methodical, while the other half scan.

Another finding was that readers could answer more questions about a story they had read if it included such things as graphics, Q and A's, lists and short sidebars.

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