Where readers look, and what they miss

Bartosz Wojdynski, Camila Espina (Grady Ph.D student), Kate Keib (Grady Ph.D. student), Jen Malson (Grady Ph.D student), Hyejin Bang (Grady Ph.D. student) and Yen-I Lee (Grady Ph.D. student). (2017, May).  Where readers look, and what they miss: Visual attention to online news. Accepted for presentation at the 67th annual International Communication Association (ICA) conference, San Diego, CA.

Abstract: Participants (N=88) in a two-condition (Facebook post information level: high vs. low) mixed factorial design took part in a laboratory experiment that utilized eye tracking to gauge what areas of the page in common news layouts attract viewers’ gaze, and whether this viewing amount of information about the story disclosed in the Facebook posts. The results show that several widely-held conventions about how online readers view online content do not apply to the reading of online news articles. In particular, the assumption that users’ visual gaze will proceed through the page in an F-shaped pattern needs to be qualified by the addition of the viewers’ entry point.  Regardless of story content or minor variations in page design, a majority of viewers who access online stories never glance at information positioned above the start of the article text or main image (whichever is located closer to the top of the page). Implications for communication theory and online news practitioners are discussed.

Bartosz Wojdynski  Camila Espina  Kate Keib  Jennifer Malson  Hyejin Bang 

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