The often-misunderstood millennials DO read text, and they do so to understand and to learn more about a story. They also like visuals to accompany stories. Not surprisingly, that is what three RJI Research Scholars who spent the past year studying the effectiveness and sustainability of long-form digital journalism, tell us.
Delighted to read these new research findings from those folks at the University of Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute about the reading habits of millennials, those often misunderstood young readers.
If you ask newspaper publishers who their most difficult to attract audience is, millennials is usually the answer—those readers between 25 and 35. Yet, this study, conducted by Jacqueline Marino, Susan Jacobson and Robert Gutsche Jr. offers us great insights as to the reading habits of the millennials.
Their eye-tracking study parallels much of what our own Poynter Institute EyeTrack research has reflected over the years, but with practical applications to today’s mobile devices.
Every journalist, publisher, editor and designer should read the findings of this research project.
—Text wins: Overall, eye-tracking participants said story text served a purpose of providing information and clarity on the subjects being covered in the story projects.
—Legibility: For reading on mobile devices, bigger-sized text, such as headlines and pull quotes, were deemed easier to read and more appealing than large blocks of smaller text. Participants reported liking text that was clear, brief and effectively integrated with images and graphics.
—Scanning devices: Participants favored bullet points and visuals to combat the physical limitations of reading on cellphones.
—Tell me more: For those who had time and wanted to know more about particular elements of the project, designers added “external options” such as links to outside sites or to other pages within the project.
-Make it visual—Participants in semi-structured individual interviews said they preferred stories where visual elements broke up longer passages of text. However, they did not want the visual elements to interfere with the flow of the narrative, and several skipped over opportunities to click on interactive elements or videos so they could continue reading.
I have observed that these are all the same points we get when we do focus groups for individual rethink projects across the globe.
The access is via phone for the long story, but perhaps not the reading itself. Here, again, the two tempos play a role: we may have leaned forward to get the key points of the story, but we decide to lean back later to read it on another device, mostly the laptop or tablet.