Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Research Group: News Firms Need to Counter Young-Adult "News Fatigue"

[P] eople were conditioned to respond to headlines and updates as presenting whole news stories, when in reality they do not. We observed consumers click and re-click news updates and headlines and continue to do so, seemingly regardless of the outcome.

- Context-Based Research Group

In Associated Press and Context-Based Research Group, "A New Model for News Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption," Associated Press, June 2008.

The Context-Based Research Group, an applied-anthopology company, interviewed and observed 18 young adults in the US, UK, and India regarding their news habits. One conclusion was that these people continually confront news while they are multitasking--accessing email while watching television and talking with friends, for example. Yet rather than digging deeply into stories as they click or watch, they seem to be seeing the same stories only at the surface levels. The young adults developed what the researchers call news fatigue. "Many consumers in the study were so overwhelmed and inundated by news that they just did not know what to do. Participants with news fatigue would try to ascertain whole news stories, but they regularly and repeatedly were left unsatisfied. . . . The more overwhelmed or unsatisfied they were, the
less effort they were willing to put in."

The researchers noted that programs such as The Daily Show and Howard Stern Show helped to put more structure and depth on news for the Americans in the sample than they would normally get. To the anthropologists, this and other findings suggest that young adults do want news with some depth. The researchers suggest that news firms such as the Associated Press need to create appealing content that presents not just facts and updates to a story, but also the story behind the story (the back story) and the implications (future story). Moreover, the news organizations need to "deliver it across all the channels these consumers use." But the researchers see the challenge: "[E]ven if you create news people can use, how do you reach consumers who spurn established packaging and consume information in haphazard, nonlinear fashion?"

Here, say the anthropologists, is where the news professionals must enter the discussion: "Anthropologists cannot answer that more difficult question for the news industry, but the value
proposition is clear for both producers and consumers: Young people are tired of the same old news and want something better. They just need some help."

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