Extra! Extra! Attention spans longer online!

A recent study conducted by the Poytner Institute found that people who read the news online have a greater attention span than those who read the news in the traditional paper-based format.  Why exactly are people more apt to read all of the text on a newspaper's website as opposed to the paper version?  Is it because the text is easier to read online (i.e. larger fonts)?   Maybe the web version is simply more appealing with its color scheme and page layout?  Or is it due to the fact that when reading a webpage, a smaller portion of the article is displayed because of the size of the window and screen?

The study also found that people paid more attention to items written in a question and answer format or as lists, and preferred documentary news photographs to staged or studio pictures (Goldsmith, 2007).  I think this may be the key.  In recent years, it has become more favorable to present more information in simple formats.  By writing news stories in formats different from the traditional narrative, the story becomes more like a conversation.  The question and answer format is a perfect example of this.  The interviewer asks the questions and the interviewee answers them.  I prefer stories written in this format because it cuts out the extra gunk of transitional phrases and fluff.  I will remember more from an article where I feel like I am sitting in on a conversation between two or three people than I will if that conversation is written in narrative form.  Another reason I like the question and answer format is because I can read the questions first and then decide if I want to read the response.  It's a quicker way for me to read the information that I want.  It's essentially an expanded form of a bulleted list.

As information becomes available in more ways it is going to be increasingly important that messages be sent quickly and efficiently.  I like to think of it as less is more.  The web has accelerated the rate at which we receive and absorb information.  Personally, I want to be able quickly scan an article or story and judge whether or not its worth my time to read.

Goldsmith, Belinda (2007, March 31). Study: Web news readers have greater attention span., Retrieved April 7, 2007, from




Next story loading loading..