First-time voters want *less* election news
Young adults often click away from 2008 election news online because they feel the sites bombard them with too much information and too many choices, according to a new study released by Northwestern University’s Media Management Center.
Here’s more: The MMC survey of 89 young people between the age of 17 and 22 — who are eligible to vote for president for the first time in 2008 — found that while they are interested in the elections and want information about the candidates and issues, they don’t want to spend much time following day-to-day developments. However, they do appreciate news sites that help them — and other new voters — understand the basics about the candidates, issues and election process.
The big problem, apparently, is the “too muchness” of all that coverage. Specifically:
- Too many things competing for attention, without clues about what is most important;
- Too many details;
- Too wordy; not distilled to the essence;
- Too many choices;
- Too much text, too high a percentage of text to graphics, or a screen of mostly text;
- Site features that they don’t immediately understand;
- Pages or stories that go on and on and on.
The study recommends:
- Place huge emphasis on clear, helpful, immediately understandable organization and design that signals what to focus on and conveys the relative importance of offerings on a page. Short, meaningful, compelling headlines are essential.
- Offer content in manageable layers and chunks, letting the reader decide how deep to go. When stories go more than a page, young adults tend to tune out. However, if stories maintain their interest enough to click on a link, the millennials want some substance.
- Have a lot but display a little. It’s better for this audience to be selective in what is presented (with links to more information) than to overwhelm with “too much.”
- Concentrate most on information resources that help young people (and other new voters) understand the basics about the candidates, the issues and the election process.
Essentially, the study appears to be recommending better editing. But it also sounds like something that new wave band Devo said more concisely many years ago in a fairly popular song:
“Freedom of choice is what you got. Freedom from choice is what you want.”
(Yawning boy photo: Reuters)