News websites should target 'reward seekers,' researcher finds

Mar 05, 2013

As newspaper sales continue to decline, many news organizations are searching for ways to improve readership and revenues from their online presences. Now, University of Missouri researchers have found that news organizations should target readers with certain personality traits in order to optimize their online viewership. Paul Bolls, an associate professor of strategic communication at the MU School of Journalism and a 2011-2012 MU Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, has found that news consumers who have "reward-seeking" personalities are more likely to read their news online and on mobile devices, and to engage with websites, by leaving comments on stories and uploading user-generated content.

In a study accepted for presentation at the 2013 International Communication Association conference in June, Bolls surveyed more than 1000 respondents and placed them into two personality groups: reward seekers and threat avoiders. He found that reward seekers tend to use the Internet liberally, searching out entertainment and , while threat avoiders tend to be more conservative, looking only for information that directly affects them. Bolls found that identified as reward seekers were much more likely to engage with news websites as well as more likely to use such as smartphones and tablets to consume news. He says this knowledge should direct news organizations to target these reward seekers.

"While threat avoiders may passively view news online from time to time, reward seekers are much more likely to visit news websites and, once they are there, stay there for longer periods of time," Bolls said. "In order to maximize the amount of revenue they can earn online, news organizations should find ways to specifically target reward seekers and engage them with their websites. If news organizations can keep reward seekers on their sites and , we have shown that they will willingly view many different pages, which will boost ."

Bolls also recommends that news organizations use "brain friendly" designs when building their websites. He says that the brain is engaged through motivation, so the most effective way to get readers to visit and stay on a website is to give them proper motivation, such as invoking emotion with stories and pictures. He also says that the simpler the design, the better.

"The brain can only process so much information at a time," Bolls said. "Too much information can overload it and cancel out understanding and retention. Consuming news and advertising involves receiving information, adding previously held knowledge for context, and then storage of the new information. These steps need to be in balance. If a reader has to work too hard to find the stories they are looking for on a news site, it can defeat their brain's ability to add context and store the new information for the future. Keeping it simple is key."

Explore further: Consumer sentiment brightens holiday spending

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Serendipitous news reading online is gaining prominence

Dec 01, 2011

Traditional media, such as newspapers and television news, require readers and viewers to intentionally seek out news by picking up a newspaper or turning on the television. The Internet and new technologies now are changing ...

Report: Tablets helping improve news consumption

Mar 19, 2012

Mobile technology appears to be increasing the public appetite for news but it's far from clear whether the news industry will profit from that, a study issued Monday concluded.

News outlets losing ground to tech rivals: report

Mar 19, 2012

Mobile devices and social networks are boosting news consumption but media outlets are lagging behind technology companies in reaping the profits, according to a report published on Monday.

Recommended for you

Consumer sentiment brightens holiday spending

5 hours ago

Consumer confidence posted its fourth consecutive monthly gain in November, rising to its highest level since July 2007, according to the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers.

Over-identifying restrictions in economic analysis

Nov 25, 2014

The analysis of empirical economics has long made use of a tool called the generalized method of moments (GMM). This method is used as a generic way of estimating parameters in an empirical model where the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.