Capturing the attention of the public


How often do you listen to the news while you’re in the car? Does the evening broadcast play in the background while you are eating dinner? Do you scroll through the news headlines on your mobile on the way to work without clicking through the full articles?

More and more, reading the news has become something that is done quickly and often when we are not fully engaged in what we are reading. This poses a threat to the news reporting industry as journalists are forgoing writing deeply researched stories in favor of those with catchy headlines in order to increase page views. This has also increased the pressure on journalists to write succinctly and convey the news in an efficient manner.

Gone are the days where reading the newspaper was a relaxed activity that was granted a specially carved out of period of time in the daily schedule. Now people are always multitasking and have the news on in the background.

Many news outlets have recognized the decrease in the attention spans of readers and have adopted video broadcasts to appeal to the more tech-savvy, younger audience. However, the use of these videos has an ulterior motive. With advertisers closely monitoring the time readers spend on webpages, watching videos captures the audience’s attention for longer than general articles and thus secures more advertising dollars for news websites.

This highlights the change in perspective of news conglomerates from providing news to gaining more advertising. In a sense, the public is losing in this instance as our attention is transformed into a commodity that these firms want to secure in order for them to draw in the maximum advertising dollars.

Another issue in response to the increased lack of attention of the public in reading long news articles is the emergence of newsgathering services such as The Skimm and The Daily Beast. These services provide a daily email newsletter that summarizes the top news stories for the day and can be personalized based on reader tastes and preferences. The Skimm founders noticed the lack of attention paid to the news media and summarized their reason for starting their daily summaries by stating:

“We soon realized three things: Reading the news is time consuming; Wanting to read the news is a hobby; lastly, not everyone has the time or interest.”

However, these services violate the principle of bias as their opinions about what is the most important news of the day imposes an implicit bias onto what news is fed to their readers. While these services ensure that people received their daily dose of news, people who rely on them are often led astray and can often miss crucial news items that might be highly relevant to them.

Ultimately, the way in which individuals absorb the news is based on personal preference. Whether one chooses to read the print newspapers, online websites or receive e-mail updates, it is important to remain aware of the potential biases that may be clouding the objectivity of many news outlets.