Last week, Poynter shared findings from its recent eye-tracking study. Using “eyetracking gear, observation and exit interviews,” Poynter tracked 36 people as they engaged with news stories on an iPad, an article for the study noted.
In order to make sure differences between study participants were apparent, Poynter brought in candidates from two separate age groups: 18-28-year-olds and 45-55-year-olds.
According to Poynter, iPad users in the study fell into one of two categories when they were interacting with a news story:
“People were either intimately involved with the iPad screen while reading during our recent eyetracking study — keeping nearly constant contact while touching, tapping, pinching and swiping to adjust their view — or they carefully arranged a full screen of text before physically detaching as they sat back to read.”
While mobile use has grown dramatically, Poynter’s study goes beyond noting this growth and shares some very insightful information about how users are interacting with news on their iPads. Here are five stats that stand out in this study:
1. Poynter study participants viewed an average of 18 items before they chose the first story to read.
When a reader goes through this many items before choosing his or her first story to read, Poynter notes that there’s a good chance users may have looked over the same story multiple times. News organizations may benefit from rethinking the images that are displayed or the text that is used in headlines when considering how to engage a mobile audience.
2. An average of 98.3 seconds were spent on the first story a person chose to read.
When users are engaged in one story for a minute and a half, news organizations need to consider how to keep them pursuing this story — whether it’s through complementing the piece with a video or photo gallery — or sharing similar stories to continue engaging these readers.
3. For people who left a story before completing the piece, they spent an average of 78.3 seconds on the page.
Poynter has more on these readers:
“We’ve been calling this the ‘bailer’s point’ and it might be a good benchmark for establishing a ‘gold coin’ like a simple pullout quote or visual element that keeps the reader engaged about halfway through a long story.”
4. 70 percent of study candidates noted that they prefer to hold their iPad horizontally (landscape version) when interacting with news stories.
Holding an iPad horizontally provides a better experience for viewing videos on the tablet, as Poynter notes, so news organizations should make sure that its content is optimized for the “holding” preferences of its readers.
5. 50 percent of study candidates preferred news stories to be laid out with an image and headline (no blurb) on their iPad.
This may mean that more iPad users would rather engage with a news site that is heavy on imagery and headlines as opposed to a typical online news layout, with images, headlines and some text to add context to the story.