Online readers may have a harder time remembering news stories than print readers, according to a recent study from the University of Houston.
The study got two groups of university students to read the news and recall what they read. For 20 minutes, one group of 25 read a hardcopy of the New York Times, while another 20 read the newspaper's online version. Both groups were required to abstain from the news for the day until the study session, and participants weren't told that they would be tested on their recollection of what they read.
The results: although both groups read similar amounts, print readers remembered an average of 4.24 news stories, while online readers recalled an average of 3.35 stories.
What explains the difference? For one, readers might go into online news with different expectations. "The nature of the Web as a medium that has subsumed virtually all others makes it a site for a variety of uses, including commerce, communication, gaming, and of course, news," lead author Arthur Santana said in a statement. "The print newspaper, however, is generally dedicated mostly to news, thus in choosing a particular medium, users bring preformed attitudes about what to expect."
There are dozens of other factors as well. Among them, the design — print tends to be more rigid, while online layouts are ever-changing — could play a role. And online stories tend to have more visuals and big ads, which could act as distractions for readers.
As a result, online readers might be more likely to scan stories, while print readers are perhaps more methodical.
Whatever the explanation, chances are you'd remember more of it if it was in print.