Less news=good news, AP study says

June 2, 2008

brazilians-online.jpgWhat the world needs now is a little less news.

A new study by the Associated Press and “ethnographic research firm” Context-Based Research Group says people aged 18-34 are overloaded with facts and updates and have trouble connecting with more in-depth stories. At the same time, they yearn for quality and in-depth reporting while having difficulty getting immediate access to that content.

The study, which surveyed young adults in Britain, India and the United States, also helped the AP and Context develop a new model for news consumption after discovering that younger generations get their news in a dramatically different fashion from their elders.


Participants in this study almost always consumed news as part of another set of activities and therefore were unable to give their full attention to the news. This is very different from previous news consumption models where people sat down to watch the evening news or read the morning paper. Multitasking prevented participants from becoming completely engaged with a news story and therefore interaction with the news was limited to headlines and news updates

News Is Connected to E-mail: Many of the study participants digested news alongside their e-mail. “I get my news when I check my e-mail,” was a common statement from study participants. However, the small doses of news in e-mail formats mostly failed to deliver the deeper content that might have produced a richer and more rewarding experience for participants.

The report covers a lot of ground, but one of the most interesting conclusions is one that most people who sit in front of a computer all day already know:

Participants in the study said they checked updates and headlines as a way to pass time and break boredom.

Overall, participants in the study constantly checked for news and therefore technically consumed news on a very frequent basis. However, the news they most frequently accessed largely consisted of headlines and updates. Their behavior therefore suggested a “false positive”; that is, the participants were checking news more frequently but not exploring stories in any depth.

And on a side note: The case studies include the story of Raj, a hyper-frequent news consumer, who clearly has a knack for pleasing the people studying him:

Raj said he normally checked the news eight to 10 times a day when he was busy and up to 20 times a day when he had more free time. Raj’s preferred sites were NDTV and Yahoo. He was also very familiar with The Associated Press.

(Photo: Reuters)

One comment

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Part of the problem especially at the local level is that there are fewer and fewer topics covered by decreasing numbers of journalists. Local newspaper web sites create ad space by using reader comments to fill up the pages. And those are often filled with the kind of screaming, hostile diatribes that people looking for meaningful media content avoid.