Readers choose linear navigation for slideshows

Research published yesterday by the Online Journalism Review suggests that online readers tend to use linear navigation tools when viewing a slideshow.

The study had 34 people view a 40-slide show at washingtonpost.com. The show provided three options for linear navigation: a forward arrow button, a “next” button and autoplay. There were two non-linear options: an index of slide numbers and a thumbnail gallery.

Now, this was a really small sample, and the participants were exposed to only one slideshow so we can debate whether navigation choice was influenced by the relative prominence of each option. We also don’t know how familiar participants were with multimedia design conventions, but …

The results were pretty lopsided. Linear navigation was by far the most popular means of navigation. And those who used it tended to spend more time with the show (they were told to stop whenever they had “had enough”) and to view more of the slides.

As the authors say… it’s an intriguing area for further research.

Is the linear orientation to looking through material so hard-wired into our media usage that it is, and will continue to be, the preferred way to take in media? Even when it was visual information – as this was – and did not logically need to follow a narrative thread – people preferred to move through in the order it was presented. What does this observation tell us about innovation in digital storytelling and our audience’s tolerance for new design paradigms.

Overseas visitors outnumber locals on UK media sites

Unique visitors to UK media groups, April 2007. Source: comScore World Metrix

Many major UK media websites draw more than half of their unique visitors from offshore, according to web ratings service comScore, which reports:

…in April 2007 many of the UK’s largest traditional media sites attracted more visitors from overseas than from within the UK. comScore data revealed that online visitors from outside the UK outnumbered the domestic audience in the case of the BBC, the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Times, the Independent, the Daily Mail, the Mirror and the Financial Times.

This isn’t too surprising to me, especially when those UK brands are so well-known. When I was at nzherald.co.nz, we also drew well over half our visitors from outside New Zealand. But it’s important to remember that we’re talking about unique visitors — many of whom came to our site via search engines or news aggregators such as the Drudge Report or Slashdot. Such readers tended to look at very few pages. Most page impressions, however, were delivered to local readers — people with a deeper and broader interest in the news we published.

There are a couple of challenges for websites that draw a substantial portion of their traffic from offshore:

  • providing international bandwidth [which in New Zealand was far more expensive than domestic]
  • selling and geo-targeting ads to be seen by offshore readers [unless domestic advertisers are happy to pay for international impressions, and this certainly happens]

Online ad spending tops 10pc in Britain

UK advertising expenditure by medium - 2006 

British broadcasters saw their share of the advertising market fall last year to the lowest level in five years, while internet advertising for the first time accounted for more than 10 per cent of all advertising expenditure.

Figures from the Advertising Association show that TV ad spending was down 4.7 per cent and radio fell 7.7 per cent from 2005 levels. Print advertising overall was down 2.7 per cent, although newspapers held steady.

But the story was very different online, where advertising expenditure grew by 47 per cent.

Here’s how the £19 billion spent on advertising in Britain was divvied up:

  • Print 43.7%
  • TV 24.1%
  • Direct mail 12.2%
  • Internet 10.6%
  • Outdoor 5.7%
  • Radio 2.8%
  • Cinema 1.0%

Note: the figures reflect expenditure by advertisers, not revenues to the media channels. They include production and agency costs.

Comparing top sites: US and NZ

Hitwise top 15 sites - US and NZ - April 2007

It’s always fun (well, I think so, at least) to compare web traffic stats. Today I was having a look at the top sites identified by Hitwise for the United States and New Zealand. (Unfortunately Hitwise doesn’t report Canadian data.)

First off, it’s important to note that the data refer to market share (expressed as a percentage) of all visits to sites by users based in the specified country. That’s not the way most websites report their rankings, which are more often based on page impressions or unique (unrepeated) visitors during a period. Moreover, the Hitwise data are extrapolations based on samples obtained from co-operating ISPs in the specific countries, not actual counts.

OK, now to the comparison. A few things I found noteworthy:

  • No news website appears in the US top 15. But two (nzherald and stuff) appear on the NZ list. Yes, Kiwis are always on the lookout for news (especially if it’s about rugby). 😉
  • Auction site eBay is number 8 on the US list. But home-grown auction site Trade Me is number 3 in NZ. In fact, more than a quarter of all New Zealanders are registered members of Trade Me, which was sold last year to publishing group Fairfax for NZ$700 million. Now that’s a success story. I find it much nicer to use than eBay and just wish they’d expand out of the Antipodes.
  • In the US, the social networking action is on MySpace and, increasingly, Facebook. In NZ, British-based Bebo dominates. A Silicon Valley rumour has Yahoo looking at buying Bebo for around US$1 billion.
  • YouTube and Wikipedia are popular in both countries. (At least the kids are doing their homework while they watch videos?)
  • In both countries, web traffic is dominated by search and email.

Newspapers and TV losing audience

Bad news this week for the newspaper and television industries in the United States.

Research by the Newspaper Association of America revealed declining circulations during the six months ending March 31, 2007:

According to the analysis, the average daily circulation for the 745 newspapers reporting for comparable periods was 44,961,066, a decrease of 2.1 per cent (from 45,902,536) over the same period a year ago. On Sunday, the average circulation for the 601 newspapers reporting for comparable periods was 48,102,437, a decrease of 3.1 per cent (from 49,639,380) over the same period a year ago.

Ever optimistic, the NAA report positioned those numbers deep in its report, and instead highlighted the fact that newspapers are not losing subscribers as quickly as in the past: a churn rate of 36.5 per cent in 2006, compared with 42.1 per cent in 2004.

US newspapers should see a lift in their “in-market readership” numbers, however, if the Audit Bureau of Circulations approves a proposal to report combined print and online readership. Readership of US papers’ online editions grew more than five per cent in the last year, according to Nielsen NetRatings.

And an Associated Press story today says US television networks ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox had 2.5 million fewer viewers in the past two months than during the same period last year.

Everyone has a theory to explain the plummeting ratings: early Daylight Savings Time, more reruns, bad shows, more shows being recorded or downloaded or streamed.

Scariest of all for the networks, however, is the idea that many people are now making their own television schedules. The industry isn’t fully equipped to keep track of them, and as a result the networks are scrambling to hold on to the nearly US$8.8 billion they collected during last spring’s ad-buying season.

Lost Remote looks at the numbers and its readers add their analysis in the comments section [hat tip: Rob Hyndman].

Online newspaper readership affluent and growing

This probably comes as no surprise, but visitors to newspaper websites have higher incomes and are more likely to shop online than the average internet user, according to research released today by the Newspaper Association of America.

As well, the number of online newspaper readers in the US is growing almost twice as quickly as the general internet population. In a press release, the NAA said:

An average of more than 59 million people (37.6 percent of all active Internet users) visited newspaper websites each month during the first quarter, a record number that represents a 5.3 per cent increase over the same period a year ago, according to Nielsen//NetRatings NetView custom analysis*.

During the same time period, the overall Internet audience grew just 2.7 per cent.

Challenge number one for newspaper owners is to ensure that online readership grows at least as quickly as print circulation declines.

Challenge number two is to increase online revenue to the point where it covers its share of news-gathering costs as print revenues decline.

Online ad spend tops C$1 billion

Table: Interactive Advertising Bureau [Canada]

Online advertising brought Canadian publishers just over $1 billion in 2006, according to an annual survey by the Interactive Advertising Bureau released today. That’s an increase of 80% over 2005 revenues. The survey is based on revenue data supplied by the 87 largest online publishers.

The biggest increase [120%] was in classified and directory advertising which now accounts for over one quarter of the online ad spend.

Search and email advertising each rose by about 80%, and continue to account for 35% and 2% respectively of all online advertising.

The gain in classified and directory revenue came at the expense of the “mature” display ad category which, despite rising 58%, now accounts for only 36% of total ad revenue, down from 41% in 2005.

Graph: Interactive Advertising Bureau [Canada]

The IAB cites several reasons for the strong 2006 results, including:

  • revenue growth across Canadian and US networks selling Canadian “eyeballs”
  • more integrated campaigns
  • more new, blue-chip, advertisters entering the online market
  • more advertising choices for search
  • uptake of rich media ad formats and video “pre-roll” advertising

The IAB projects growth in online ad revenue during 2007 of 32%.

Online advertising, although growing quickly, accounted for about eight per cent of the approximately total advertising expenditure in 2006 [1.01 billion out of an estimated $12 billion].

Wikipedia draws 8% of US online adults daily

Top educational and reference sites, week of March 17, 2007

On a typical day, eight per cent of online Americans consult the user-generated encyclopedia Wikipedia, according to a report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Now, the headline finding of the report is that “36% or Americans consult Wikipedia”. But that’s not a very useful figure, since the question put to people was simply: “Do you ever use the internet to look for information on Wikipedia?” No time frame is given, so those who answered in the affirmative may have only used the site once, for all we know.

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Europe continues to lead broadband access

Broadband subscribers per 100 inhabitants. Source: OECD 

More than one in three Danes and Dutch have a broadband account. Five other European countries and Korea are close behind, according to data released yesterday by the OECD.

The number of broadband subscribers in OECD countries increased 26 per cent from 157 million in December 2005 to 197 million in December 2006.

This growth increased broadband penetration rates in the OECD from 13.5 per 100 inhabitants in December 2005 to 16.9 subscriptions per 100 inhabitants one year later.

Topping the list was Denmark with 31.9, closely followed by the Netherlands at 31.8. Canada was in ninth place with a rate of 23.8, up from 21.0 last year. The USA was 15th with a rate of 19.6, up from 16.3. New Zealand was 21st, surging to 14.0 from 8.1.

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The best-informed watch Colbert and Stewart

Which audiences know the most? 

Under the headline Best-Informed Also View Fake News, Study Says today’s New York Times reports:

Americans may have more news outlets today than two decades ago, but they still don’t know much more about current events than they did then, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press.

But here’s one big difference: the survey respondents who seemed to know the most about what’s going on — who were able to identify major public figures, for example — were likely to be viewers of fake news programs like Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report”; those who knew the least watched network morning news programs, Fox News or local television news.

I think describing The Daily Show and The Colbert Report as “fake news” is a bit harsh and a bit inflammatory. These are parodies. They wouldn’t be nearly so funny if they weren’t based on real people and real events.

And perhaps those Americans who are best informed are also most in need of the sort of humorous relief provided by Stewart and Colbert.

Also worth noting: newspaper websites tied for first place on the list of news sources used by the best-informed.

Oh yes, the Pew Center study goes on to report that almost one third of Americans couldn’t name the Vice-President, and barely one third could name the president of Russia.