How do users perceive available information, and how do they apply and use it?

11. September 2014

The eye tracking method:

Tracking eye movement through the use of special micro cameras and analysis programs is superior in two ways:

Firstly, perceiving and applying a range of media is largely determined and influenced by visual stimuli. Reader scans and copy-test methods cannot measure this activity as reliably as the microscopic precision of eye tracking.

Secondly, the process of perceiving and applying occurs in fractions of a second, and is “pre-conscious.” That is, users are unconscious of their perceptions, as the thought process does not begin for several fractions of a second. Surveyed media users typically cannot explain why they saw one thing and “overlooked” another. They come up with plausible explanations, but it is unclear if they are legitimate. Many phases of eye movement are involuntary. This can be measured objectively with the use of micro cameras that record up to 50 frames per second.


The practice in action

Today eye tracking technology is so far advanced that micro cameras can be mounted in the frame of what resembles a standard pair of eyeglasses. Typical reading conditions can thus be created thanks to this design (eliminating the “laboratory effect).

Given the technical complexities of this method, it has certain limitations. In contrast to reader scanning, this method cannot generate panels of many readers. However, our experience shows that about twelve to fifteen test readers is a sufficient target group to determine the type and intensity of perceiving and using the pages of a given newspaper or online edition. (This process is therefore considerably less expensive than reader scans.)

The experiences of eye tracking in recent years have shown that this sample number is sufficient to determine the strengths and weaknesses of a given range of media. There are in fact a significant number of major influences that are neurophysiologically determined – and are thus applicable to practically all “normally” developed adults.

Working for press agencies, IPJ has conducted such eye tracking studies of approximately 200 newspaper readers over the past seven years. These measurements have resulted in benchmarks and to-do lists designed to optimize the media on offer.


Our current online-offline study

Our studies are designed to show whether established newspaper readers are capable of using online offers according to patterns that they have “learned” from news articles. We also approach this from another angle: can young online users who have grown up with the Web be drawn to the newspapers, and how? Our data analysis shows

  1. A practically-applicable management report with concrete recommendations; and
  2. Structured findings about user patterns that can be practically applied to optimize the on- and offline range of offers.


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