By Mark Hanzlik, ACGMedia
When I read Jack Shafer's post on Slate
this weekend I wasn't quite sure how to respond to his recent judgement comparing the print and online reading experience.
When you see the headline "Print vs. Online" you almost expect to see a much larger view of the two concurrent newspaper realities, in some sense maybe the differences between print and online advertising as well. Instead, Shafer targets only one aspect of the contrasting media practices; retention of news. To backup his personal findings, he cites an academic study from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, a paper titled "Medium Matters: Newsreaders' Recall and Engagement with Online and Print Newspapers
". Shafer quickly points out only 45 readers were tested in the recent study, and how the results confirm his own print-superiority bias. Also, considering nature of this academic study (one newspaper product only, NY Times) and very small sample size, one might question the results.
In this study there's assumptions made about the behavior of readers and their preferences that support the theory readers are directed to a higher level of engagement with print products, and that online readers are simply just too distracted. That may be true. But, they also theorize the dynamic nature of the web itself doesn't really provide for a memorable experience. That's seems unlikely to me but I can see how that's already a fully loaded debate and both sides have valid arguments.
The case on behalf of a dynamic and highly variable online news and information platform seems so strong and so prevalent in the current digital environment, these findings seem impossible to accept. Unlike online news platforms which come in a variety of design platforms and media devices, print newspapers are a fairly stable medium and have not changed the reader experience as dramatically over the past dozen or so years. Publishers are no longer trying to make the print experience as much fun as the digital one. I think a tipping point has already been reached, so it should all come down to how you slice up those readers (print vs. online) and not about whether one method is better than the other.
There's another camp that suggests that news and media itself has changed so dramatically that clinging to an older model of delivery doesn't really get you back to where we started anyway. So, I say go ahead turn the page, click the page what's the difference.
print vs. online,