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in the cloud

Sorpresa, la carta “batte” il Web

Sorpresa. Ricordate le fosche profezie sull’ultima copia stampata del New York Times? Beh, forse il Web non è il meteorite che si immaginava per i giornali-dinosauri. Lo dimostra uno studio pubblicato il 10 agosto dall’università dell’Oregon condotto proprio sui lettori del quotidiano di Manhattan.

I professori Randall, Livingstone e Cho hanno selezionato alcuni giovani lettori (età media 22 anni che per il 77% dicono di informarsi su Internet e non su carta) e li hanno divisi in due gruppi. Il primo doveva leggere il NyTimes stampato, il secondo la stessa edizione ma nella sua applicazione digitale (il Reader). Ogni persona aveva 30 minuti di tempo, al termine dei quali è stata sottoposta a un piccolo questionario su ciò che aveva letto.

I ricercatori affermano che i lettori su carta «ricordano molte più notizie di quelli on-line», sono in grado di spaziare su più argomenti del giornale e capaci di cogliere meglio il «succo» delle notizie.

E’ il primo studio che dimostra un valore aggiunto dell’informazione su carta spesso ignorato dai giovani o da un uso superficiale dell’industria editoriale scritta. Qualsiasi informazione organizzata vuol dire più informazione.

A differenza di un sito, infatti, un giornale è fatto essenzialmente di due cose: la notizia stessa – quello che su Internet è chiamato «contenuto» – e la gerarchia che viene data alla notizia.

Per il giornale se una storia è «da prima pagina» ha un valore-rilevanza maggiore di quella relegata in un taglio o in una breve. Trucchi tipografici e impaginazione (titolazione, spazi bianchi, accostamenti) sono un valore aggiunto nascosto ma inestimabile per la carta. Uno sforzo giornalistico che sul Web si perde. Le notizie sono (quasi) sempre pari livello (un rullo centrale), una dopo l’altra, offrendo una grande prospettiva panoramica ma pochi legami tra di loro.

Lo spazio fisico, è ovvio, ha i suoi problemi: un giornale non ha nemmeno la funzione «cerca»… Ma proprio la sua finitezza costringe chi lo fabbrica a migliorare al massimo i nessi tra gli spazi. Un lavoro che, almeno nella ricerca dell’Oregon, dà i suoi frutti nella memoria dei lettori e dunque nella comprensione della realtà.

L’informazione organizzata staticamente, in breve, fornisce oltre al testo anche il contesto, svolgendo un’operazione di agenda setting che siti e social network assolvono in modo completamente differente. Non a caso, la ricerca dimostra che i lettori on-line tendono a seguire meno degli altri gli articoli di politica interna o internazionale, mentre quelli su carta sfruttano gli indizi di gerarchia dati dalla redazione per valutare le notizie.

Infine, molto importante, lo studio afferma che il racconto multimediale (prerogativa esclusiva del Web) almeno per ora non rende le stesse più memorabili da parte del lettore.

Visto che sempre più persone formano le proprie opinioni sul Web e non sui giornali, studi come questo sono indispensabili sia per gli editori e i giornalisti che per chi ha a cuore un’opinione pubblica ben informata.

Lo studio è consultabile qui: http://img.slate.com/media/66/MediumMatters.pdf

Qui sotto il pezzo di Slate che ha segnalato la questione.

Print vs. Online

The ways in which old-fashioned newspapers still trump online newspapers.

By Jack Shafer- Posted Friday, Aug. 19, 2011, at 5:47 PM ET

A little over five years ago, I announced that I was canceling my subscription to the New York Times. My cancellation wasn’t in protest of Times coverage of the Middle East, ethnic minorities, religion, sex, or any of the other thousand hot-button issues that cause readers to kill their subscriptions. I was getting rid of my newsprint New York Times because the dandy redesign of NYTimes.com had made it a superior vessel for conveying the news.

Another argument in favor of the online Times was that it was free and the print product was costing me $621.40 a year. But mostly I found the new design more conducive to the way I live and work.

I remain a big fan of NYTimes.com and especially of the Times Reader, the Adobe AIR application for Mac, Windows, and Linux that allows you to read the paper offline after you’ve synched it to your computer. But less than a year after my Times cancellation, I was paying for home delivery of the newspaper again. I’d like to blame it on my wife, who was made miserable by my radical move and demanded reinstatement of our subscription. But I started missing the blue Times bag on my lawn and the glossy goodness of the Sunday magazine. Perhaps if I could have gotten my carrier to toss a blue-bagged computer preloaded with the Times Reader onto my lawn every morning, I could have survived.

But no. What I really found myself missing was the news. Even though I spent ample time clicking through theTimes website and the Reader, I quickly determined that I wasn’t recalling as much of the newspaper as I should be. Going electronic had punished my powers of retention. I also noticed that I was unintentionally ignoring a slew of worthy stories. Had Slate‘s “News Quiz” reappeared during this interval, I surely would have been a daily loser.

My anecdotal findings about print’s superiority were seconded earlier this month by an academic study presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. The paper,“Medium Matters: Newsreaders’ Recall and Engagement With Online and Print Newspapers (pdf), by Arthur D. Santana, Randall Livingstone, and Yoon Cho of the University of Oregon, pit a group of readers of the print edition of the New York Times against Web-Times readers. Each group was given 20 minutes reading time and asked to complete a short survey.

The researchers found that the print folks “remember significantly more news stories than online news readers”; that print readers “remembered significantly more topics than online newsreaders”; and that print readers remembered “more main points of news stories.” When it came to recalling headlines, print and online readers finished in a draw.

Although the number of readers tested in the study is small—just 45—the paper confirms my print-superiority bias, at least when it comes to reading the Times. The paper explores several theories for why print rules. Online newspapers tend to give few cues about a story’s importance, and the “agenda-setting function” of newspapers gets lost in the process. “Online readers are apt to acquire less information about national, international and political events than print newsreaders because of the lack of salience cues; they generally are not being told what to read via story placement and prominence—an enduring feature of the print product,” the researchers write. The paper finds no evidence that the “dynamic online story forms” (you know, multimedia stuff) have made stories more memorable.

The paper cites other researchers on the subject who have theorized that the layout of online pages—which often insert ads mid-story or force readers to click additional pages to finish the story—may alter the reading experience. A print story, even one that jumps to another page, is not as difficult to chase to its conclusion. Newspapers are less distracting—as anybody who has endured an annoying online ad while reading a news story on the Web knows. Also, and I’m channeling the paper a little bit here, by virtue of habit and culture a newspaper commands a different sort of respect, engagement, and focus from readers.

Influenced as I am by Bill Hill’s 1999 essay “The Magic of Reading” (Microsoft Reader required), I think that the conventional newspaper has a couple more advantages. The attention given to typeface, letter-spacing, line-length, leading, page size, and margins, and all the other tricks in the newspaper typographer’s bag, gives the eyes and the brain an edge over copy published for Web browsers.

After 15 years working in Web journalism, I still find it difficult to finish any newspaper story longer than 1,000 words on a computer screen. I either find a copy of the newspaper or, failing that, print it out. I’m no Luddite, though. You can’t search for news in paper editions! You can get only a handful of out-of-town newspapers in paper editions on their day of publication, so I’m happy that both reading environments exist. My iPad reading experience has been mixed. While it’s a joy to carry 25 editions of The New Yorker and whole libraries of books on an iPad, for real reading satisfaction I still reach for the print editions.

As consumers of news continue to shift from newspapers to computers, reader engagement with the news will change, conclude the authors. Everybody who writes, edits, and produces news copy needs to give this paper a gander. As it’s a 30-page pdf, I don’t mind if you print it.

Da Slate: http://www.slate.com/id/2302014/pagenum/all/