Forget influencers, social sharers, or brand obsessives. News organizations desperate to court online readers should focus their energies on “reward-seekers.”
threat avoiders may passively view news online from time to time, reward seekers are much more likely to visit news Web sites and, once they are there, stay for longer periods of time,” said
Paul Bolls, an associate professor of strategic communication at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, and author of the report.
Bolls recommends that news organizations find ways to specifically target reward seekers "in order to maximize the amount of revenue they can earn online."
“If news organizations can keep reward seekers on their sites and mobile apps, we have shown that they will willingly view many different pages, which will boost advertising revenue.”
Bolls found that reward-seekers are more apt to engage with news publishers’ Web sites by leaving comments on stories and uploading user-generated content.
For his research -- which has been accepted for presentation at the 2013 International Communication Association conference in June -- Bolls said he surveyed roughly 1,000 respondents and placed them into two personality groups: reward seekers and threat avoiders.
He found that reward seekers tend to use the Internet liberally, searching out entertainment and gratification, while threat avoiders tend to be more conservative, looking only for information that directly affects them.
Bolls also recommends that news organizations use “brain-friendly” designs when building their Web sites.
The brain, he believes, is engaged through motivation, so the most effective way to get readers to visit and stay on a site is to give them proper motivation, such as invoking emotion with stories and pictures.
He also stresses that the simpler the design of a Web site or mobile app, the better. “The brain can only process so much information at a time,” Bolls said. “Too much information can overload it and cancel out understanding and retention.”
“Consuming news and advertising involves receiving information, adding previously held knowledge for context, and then storage of the new information,” Bolls added. “These steps need to be in balance. If a reader has to work too hard to find the stories they are looking for on a news site, it can defeat their brain’s ability to add context and store the new information. Keeping it simple is key.”