'Web visitors are better readers'

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 dismayed — the delegates.

The survey disclosed that when readers choose to read a story online they usually read about 77 per cent of it, 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 online editions of their papers. 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 online readers read all 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 — 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 researchers called "scanners"

who survey a whole page first before choosing a story to read.

Online, about half were methodical, while the other half scan.

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