Jim

Speaking of Eyetrack

In SND Boston, The news biz on October 13, 2007 at 3:50 pm

I’m so glad someone’s doing something empirical on how people actually read papers. I was all excited when I learned about the first Eyetrack years ago. And then — not much. For a long time. Editors are allergic to science, let’s face it.

The big surprise: Lots of readers read more than 6 inches of a story. Many will even follow jumps.

Well, maybe this isn’t a surprise to writers. But I’ve been hearing and preaching short short short for so long, now. I’ve lost my old copy of “Eyes on the News,” so I can’t say for sure whether the original Eyetrack indicated people wouldn’t read deeply into stories. If so, it’s especially interesting that fresh research gives different results.

The big winner: Chunky text. Readers recall facts more accurately when they’re displayed in “alternate story formats” than in standard story form.

What’s missing: Content tracking — do readers read different subject matter differently? For instance, a football gamer versus the police blotter. And what about folks who aren’t regular newspaper readers? Do they have different reading patterns, and does that matter?

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