Saturday, April 21, 2007

Reading into it

Sometimes it can be hard to distance yourself enough from your paper and look at it objectively, which is why I found the "Inside Readers' Minds" panel fairly enlightening. Five people who all take in news in different ways were kind enough to spare some of their time to be quizzed by journalists. (What a fun Saturday!)

It's hard to make too many generalities about what readers like, as this was far from a scientific or significant sample size, but it was interesting to hear what they had to say nonetheless.

Some observations:

  • They like short, easily digestible pieces of information, a la the front page of The Wall Street Journal, bulleted lists, raised quotes, etc.
  • They said their eyes often fall on pictures first, and those can give clues about what the story's about, even when the headline is more abstract.
  • Design matters. Some said that how the paper looks affects if they'll pick it up.
  • Sometimes we try too hard to be "hip" and conversational, and they don't always appreciate that.
  • Information presented should be as clear and specific as possible, and clear labels spelling out what information is where on the page are appreciated.

We're readers, too, of course, but it was nice to hear opinions from people outside the newsroom and to see how they feel about what we spend tireless hours putting together. Sometimes we can be all too close to the final product -- I enjoyed hearing from people with a bit more distance.

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