19 April 2007

User research on how people consume news

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Reading the news
Liz Danzico has written a very interesting and somewhat counterintuitive piece for Adobe Design Center on user research how people are consuming news. She starts the article by featuring two people Paul and Rebecca who are news junkies, but not in the way you think, and goes on to underline how important it is to do this kind of research in context – at home, at work, or wherever people normally are.

Paul and Rebecca both characterized themselves as “heavy online news readers.” And although it’s true that they’re heavy consumers of news, their behavior reveals that they are not getting the majority of their news from newspaper websites, as this description might suggest. While Paul is using the Internet to set up his newsletters and alerts, he’s not really reading news online. Instead, he’s reading e-mail newsletters, which is typical of about 50% of Americans who have broadband at home. Rebecca, for all her diligence, is really gathering all her news and commentary offline, then supplementing it by scanning the headlines online, typical of about 24% of all online news readers. Neither one, then, really lived up to their characterization of how they use the news.

It’s no surprise that Paul and Rebecca can’t articulate what they actually do. People often say one thing, then demonstrate another. Rebecca and Paul are just two of twelve people that we’ve been spending time with for a design research project for a news and media company called Daylife. While the results will be used to inform the user experience of a website in the short-term, our larger goal is to understand how people are consuming news and information today. And the fact that people are unaware of the way they consume news is precisely the reason we wanted to conduct the study in the first place.

Liz Danzico is director of user experience at Daylife, a website that gathers, organizes, and analyzes news from around the world. She is also the senior development editor for Rosenfeld Media, a publishing house dedicated to user experience. Liz has served as director of experience strategy for AIGA, formed the information architecture team at Barnes & Noble.com, and managed the information architecture group at Razorfish, New York.

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