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When readers are most engaged and how to keep them that way

The attention span of humans has decreased by 4 seconds over the last eight years and is now officially below that of a goldfish, sitting at 8 seconds compared to the goldfish’s 9 seconds. This poses a problem for publishers trying to capture people’s attention but new Nielsen research has identified when and how consumers are most engaged.

Native advertising platform Taboola partnered with Nielsen to produce the report, Research defines the moment of next, which aims to scientifically pinpoint the exact moment people’s attention is at its peak. 

Taboola defines ‘moments of next’ as the times in a user’s day when they’re open to exploring something new – including advertising messages. In conducting the report, the company wanted to identify how to capitalise on that moment when users are most receptive: what do they want to see and how do you keep them engaged?

To understand users’ behaviour, Nielsen conducted a study to test 60 participants’ attentiveness and emotional response to different publisher website feeds. Participants were asked to engage with content that included a continuous scroll feed and no further content at the end of an article. 

While viewing the content, participants’ unique eye measurements were analysed to identify their attentiveness and emotional response by using immersive AI and virtual reality technology developed by a neuro-cognition professor.

Pinpointing the ‘moment of next’: when readers are most engaged

The study found that participants were most open-minded after reading an article when their ‘cognitive load’ (mental effort used in the working memory) had decreased. 

Taboola said “In our study, research participants displayed an 8 per cent lower cognitive load at the end of an article – the moment of next – compared to any other point during the article reading experience.”

This meant that people were more receptive to the content that was displayed following the article. 

Keeping readers engaged 

The study then found that people were 20 per cent more attentive when presented with a continuous scroll feed compared to articles without content recommendations underneath them. 

“This level of attentiveness shouldn’t be too surprising. Think about the current social media landscape. People are being fed continuous scroll feeds on almost every major social platform – and there’s a great amount of psychological evidence explaining why this keeps audiences consuming content,” said Taboola. 

Not only were people more attentive to scroll feeds, it was also found that they were more emotionally invested in them – generating a 17 per cent higher emotional response to the feed than any other kind of “finite end of article experience”. 

A clear recommendation 

The report recommends that publishers use a continuous scroll feed to strengthen their connection with readers, and offer advertising spaces for brands to capitalise on users when they are at their most attentive.

The report is available here. 

Written by Lyndsie Clark

Niche Publishing Network Founder and Editor Lyndsie Clark has over 10 years of niche publishing experience, working in a variety of roles spanning B2B editorial, sales, operations, events, BD, and management.

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