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By Penny Crossland


Abstract:

With the growing trend for newspapers to be published online as well as in print form, readers tend to prefer one format or the other. Enhancements to digital versions can offer useful additional features but research suggests people have better recall of news read in paper form than online.


Item:

Alongside the ongoing debate about whether or not to charge for online news content, newspaper publishers also have to consider how best to present digital content to their readers. Mobile devices in the form of smartphones, tablets and eReaders are shaping the way we consume news, as reported by Nancy Davis Kho here a few days ago.

The October 2011 Pew study Nancy refers to also mentioned that 53% of tablet owners consume news via this device on a daily basis, begging the question as to how newspaper publishers present their content to these consumers. Do you prefer browsing for news or reading a replica edition of the printed newspaper?

The SFN blog, sister publication to editors’ weblog has reported on the Boston Globe’s launch of an ePaper edition, which is being made available for laptops and as an app for tablets and smartphones. However, rather than being just a copy of the actual newspaper, the Boston Globe ePaper is offering additional features made possible by digital technology: navigational scrolling and a "text-to-speech" option allows readers to choose if they want to hear selected articles or even have entire newspaper read to them; some articles contain embedded links and can be shared via social networking sites.

The Boston Globe press release says the aim of its ePaper is to “combine the sensation of reading the print newspaper with the convenience of mobile communication”. Some may say that producers of ePapers are trying to keep all their readers happy – those traditionalists who prefer to turn pages, as well as those happy to say good-bye to old-fashioned print; however they are also viewing the continuing upward trend in tablet sales. According to the Pew study mentioned above, only around 18% of US adults own a tablet, so there is plenty of room for growth – and replicated papers are undoubtedly best viewed on these devices rather than on smartphones.

The SFN blog quotes some ePaper sceptics, notably PandoDaily which views digital newspaper replication as anachronistic and unnecessary. Still resisting using a Kindle for reading books, I am in the traditionalist camp. Also, as Tim Buckley Owen pointed out recently, a study has shown that readers have a better recall of news they have read in paper format as opposed to online.

Researchers working in the PR and media industry will also like to read digital replica newspapers, since the positioning of news within papers can be very important to their clients. This was brought home to me on a recent visit to the House of Commons Library, which has a vast collection of UK national and regional newspapers in hard copy format.

Admittedly, the library is like a gentleman’s club, so this was not entirely unexpected, however one of the main reasons for the collection is for MPs to be able to see where they have appeared in the papers, whether for positive or negative reasons. This is not a fact you can obtain from an online newspaper.


 

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Penny Crossland is the owner of CH Business Research, a consultancy specialising in investigative research and market intelligence. Penny conducts research projects for clients from a variety of industry sectors, including financial services, management and security consultancy, FMCG, publishing and retail. Fluent in German, she also translates academic papers and corporate material.

Before establishing her business in 2001, Penny was Research Manager at OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. Penny graduated from Bristol University with a degree in German and Politics and has a Masters degree from London University in contemporary German Literature. She became interested in all aspects of business information through working for an industrial market research company in New York.

Penny can be reached at penny.crossland@freepint.com

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