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Three RJI Research Scholars spent the past year studying the effectiveness and sustainability of long-form digital journalism. This is the fourth in a five-part series based on 53 interviews with millennials to gauge this audience’s reception to long-form journalism delivered on mobile platforms.


In the eye-tracking study, video was either first or second in the number and duration of fixations in each long-form project with video. In post-session interviews, however, participants had the most praise for photographs over all other elements. In three of the four projects studied, participants identified infographics as their favorite element.

Make videos short, informative and relevant

Although participants in the eye-tracking study spent considerable time fixating on video, they didn’t all enjoy the videos they watched. The videos participants liked best were short (less than three minutes long) and relayed information that helped them understand the topic.

Include photographs that add to the users’ experience of the story

Photographs provide a break for the eye when scrolling, participants in eye tracking and paper prototyping studies said. Unlike large sections of text, which participants in the eye-tracking study said were sometimes overwhelming, not one eye-tracking participant expressed frustration at seeing a photograph appear mid-scroll. Overall, eye-tracking participants liked when photographs provided emotional or informational material.

Don’t overwhelm with infographics

Infographics can relay information clearly and fast — or they can overwhelm with too many images, design elements and data. In NPR’s “T-Shirt,” eye-tracking participants said that they enjoyed the variety and simplicity of the infographics, including a chart that relayed minimum wage information around the world and a photographic infographic of how cotton becomes yarn. “Even if you didn’t read the entire article and all you scrolled to was this chart,” one participant said, “you would understand what the point of it was. You would easily see in two seconds what this author was saying.”

Next post

Mobile long-form journalism: The future is (even more) visual. Millennials who designed their own long-form mobile stories on cellphones cut the text by three-fourths and increased the use of infographics, video and interactive images. In individual interviews, participants said they preferred stories in which long passages of text were broken up by visual elements.

Jacqueline Marino  
Research scholar

Susan Jacobson  
Research scholar

Robert Gutsche Jr.  
Research scholar


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