How do young people use news media, asks a newly published PhD dissertation by Anna Van Cauwenberge of KU Leuven. The dissertation looks especially at the interactive functions of different news platforms; how media use shapes or is shaped by the daily routines of young people and why young people are paying less attention to news in general.
Van Cauwenberge conducted a three-part study to answer these questions: a cross-national survey, focus group interviews and an eye-tracking experiment. All in all, the thesis observes and contextualizes the trends of media usage in Flemish and Dutch young people (15 – 34) and how the trends vary between national media systems and young people themselves.
The results of a cross-national survey show that the traditional media platforms are still most popular. In particular young people get their news from television. Only few Dutch and Flemish young news users get their news only on online platforms.
Focus groups interviews showed that there was no clear evidence for selective new exposure or fragmentation of public attention to the news. On the contrary, the young people seem to use the internet to complement their intake of national news – not to follow merely personal interests.
However, there were major differences between so-called “traditional news users” and those who read or watch news online. Online news users are more active and felt more engaged with the news.
The interviewed also explicitly stated that they look for context in addition to facts in news.
Lastly, Van Cauwenberge conducted a multi-day eye-tracking experiment on tablet platform to experiment on two news structures: one traditional print structure, the other a new, associative news structure that organised related news stories chronologically into developing news stories. This experiment showed that the latter structure led to a significant increase in news comprehension.
Read the whole dissertation here (in Dutch, PDF).