Make Sure You Read This Whole Story. There Will Be a Test.

Readers of online journalism are more likely to read the entire story they select than readers of newspapers. But even newspaper readers finish an average of about 60 percent of each story they decide to read.

The Poynter Institute’s EyeTrack07 study challenges the oft-repeated assertion that online readers are informational hummingbirds, just getting a quick sip of this or that.

The study appears to challenge the “myth of the short attention span,” as Poynter puts it.The Poynter study — which included a large sample of readers of Denver’s Rocky Mountain News, both print and online versions  — found, “People in our study selected what they wanted to read, of course, and then … they read a lot! We were amazed by these numbers,” according to study co-director Sara Quinn.

“A big surprise was that a much larger percentage of story text was read online than in print,” Quinn said.

To look at a comparison, on average, online readers read 77 percent of what they chose to read. Broadsheet readers read an average of 62 percent. Tabloid readers read an average of 57 percent.

In fact, nearly two-thirds of online readers, once they chose a particular item to read, read ALL of the text. Isn’t that incredible? Top to bottom.

Just to emphasize this significant finding: once a story was selected online, an average of 77 percent was read.

Another finding that pertained to reading: we found that jumps in print editions were read in high volume.

Tabloid readers, on average, read a higher percentage of jumped story text than broadsheet readers. Sixty-eight percent of the jump text read by tabloid readers and 59 percent of the jump read by broadsheet readers.

The study also found that that readers of print publications were more methodical readers than those online. And they found that stories with alternative structures …

INTERRUPTION: Hold it! What’s an alternative structure?

POYNTER: That’s a story structure like a question and answer format, or a timeline, short sidebar, list or something put in “block quote” format.

INTERRUPTION: I see. Please continue …

… alternative story structures aided in the comprehension of the stories.

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