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Visual Attention in Newspaper versus TV-Oriented News Websites

William J. Gibbs and Ronan S. Bernas

Journal of Usability Studies, Volume 4, Issue 4, May 2009, pp. 147-165

Article Contents


The following sections provide information about the participants, apparatus, and stimuli used in the study.


Graduate and undergraduate students from Duquesne University, Pennsylvania, USA participated in this research project by locating information on news provider Websites. Fourteen individuals, 6 females and 8 males, with an average age of 23 years, comprised the participant group. They reported that they were experienced with Web browsing and obtaining news online. Most indicated that they read news Websites each day or several times daily and that the Web was their preferred medium for obtaining news followed by television and then newspapers. For most participants, their primary areas of the study were Journalism and Multimedia Arts, although some individuals majored in Advertising and Public Relations and English. All were proficient computer users who had normal or corrected-to-normal vision.


We recorded eye movements with a ViewPoint eye-tracking system designed by Arrington Research, Inc., an established company that has been making eye-tracking equipment since 1995. The ViewPoint system provides corneal and pupil reflection eye-tracking and monitors eye movement, gaze, and pupil size under infrared lighted conditions. The eye-tracker sampled at 30 Hz with accuracy of 0.25°-1.0° visual arc (~10-40 pixels). We calibrated the system for each participant trial and performed re-calibrations when necessary. Participants viewed visual stimuli (Websites) on a LCD 19-inch monitor with a 1024 X 768 pixel resolution. An adjustable head positioning device stabilized viewing position and restricted head movement.


The following six Websites obtained from popular news organizations that have tradition in either newspaper (e.g., The New York Times) or television (e.g., CNN) were chosen for this research:

We chose these sites based on the following criteria: (a) site type, the site could be classified as either television or newspaper; (b) popularity, the sites characterized prevailing online news outlets from which many people obtain the news; (c) the sites presented Web pages with distinct categories of visual imagery and high information density; and (d) we felt that major characteristics of the sites (layout, link concentration) were indicative of many popular newspaper and TV-oriented sites.

The eyes fixate on important information in the first few seconds of viewing a stimulus (Loftus, 1976). Studies of ocular behavior on Websites (e.g., Josephson & Holmes, 2002, 2008; Pan et al., 2004) analyzed data obtained from the first 15 seconds of participants’ viewing. Brandt and Stark (1997) who employed a string-editing analysis used 10 seconds exposure for collecting eye data. Consistent with these studies, we analyzed ocular data from the time a participant began viewing a homepage until he or she clicked a news story link, an average of 20 seconds.

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