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The Associated Press unveils findings of anthropological research at World Editors Forum


Global Study by Context-Based Research Group Finds Younger Consumers Struggle with News Fatigue but Yearn for In-Depth Stories

GÖTEBORG, SWEDEN .- The Associated Press and Context-Based Research Group, an ethnographic research firm with a global network of cultural anthropologists, today unveiled key findings from their global anthropological study at the annual World Editors Forum in Sweden. The study examines news consumption patterns of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34 in Britain, India and the United States.

Among the key findings was that the young subjects of the study experienced news fatigue, meaning they were overloaded with facts and updates and had trouble connecting to more in-depth stories. Participants yearned for quality and in-depth reporting, but had difficulty immediately accessing such content. This experience was common across participants’ race, gender and geographic location. Additionally, the anthropologists noted that the news habits of the young consumers were dramatically different from those of previous generations.

“We had modest expectations about this type of research prior to embarking on this journey,” said Jim Kennedy, director of strategic planning for the Associated Press. “Ultimately, this deep dive helped reshape our thinking about journalism in the digital age. We believe the findings and proposed model will help news organizations better meet the needs of today’s media consumers"

AP engaged Context to conduct anthropological research to obtain a more holistic understanding of the news consumption behaviors of young people. This group is driving the shift from traditional media to digital news. The study explored habits of an ethnically diverse group of 18 men and women. Trained anthropologists used a range of methodologies including ethnography (participant observation) and in-depth anthropological analysis to get to the core of participants’ actions. Based on the observed behavior, the AP and Context developed a “new model” for news consumption.

“As anthropologists we immerse ourselves in a culture and are able to see what people do versus what they say they do,” said Dr. Robbie Blinkoff, co-founder and principal anthropologist at Context-Based Research Group. “Our observations and analysis identified that consumers’ news diets are out of balance due to the over-consumption of facts and headlines. In an effort to lead them to more ‘nourishing’ in-depth stories we provided AP with a framework for content delivery innovation.”

In addition to news fatigue, the field research also unveiled the following insights:

-- Consumers Want Depth But Aren’t Getting It- Some participants showed signs of shallow news consumption, however the research suggested people were struggling to find more depth online

-- News is Multitasked- Participants in this study almost always consumed news as part of another set of activities and therefore were unable to give their full attention to the news. This is very different from previous news consumption models where people sat down to watch the evening news or read the morning paper. Multitasking prevented participants from becoming completely engaged with a news story and therefore interaction with the news was limited to headlines and news updates

-- News Is Connected to E-mail - Many of the study participants digested news alongside their e-mail. “I get my news when I check my e-mail,” was a common statement from study participants. However, the small doses of news in e-mail formats mostly failed to deliver the deeper content that might have produced a richer and more rewarding experience for participants

-- News Takes Work but Creates Social Currency- Several participants viewed news as a form of social currency. The news that resonated most was relevant to participants’ needs

The research was conducted in six major metropolitan areas around the globe including: Houston, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia, Kansas City in the United States; Brighton, Britain and Hyderabad, India. As a result of this project, AP has developed a program for linking news content across platform and brand to help connect consumers to relevant news more easily. The complete report entitled, “A New Model for News: Studying the Deep Structure of Young-Adult News Consumption” is available for download at:


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