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Young Adults Hit by 'News Fatigue,' Study Finds

Young adults experience news fatigue from being inundated by facts and updates and have trouble accessing in-depth stories, according to a study to be unveiled at a global media conference Monday.

The Context-Based Research Group, an ethnographic research firm, found that the news consumption behavior of younger readers differs profoundly from that of previous generations.

The research project, commissioned by The Associated Press in 2007, analyzed the news consumption patterns of an ethnically diverse group of 18 men and women between the ages of 18 and 34 in six cities in the United States, Britain and India.

It ultimately helped AP design a new model for news delivery to meet the needs of young adults, who are driving the shift from traditional media to digital news, said Jim Kennedy, AP's director of strategic planning.

"The real value was that it gave us a lasting model of how news is being consumed in the digital space by young people that we can use to improve our own newsgathering and project development," Kennedy said.

That includes what the AP calls "1-2-3 filing," starting with a news alert headline for breaking news, followed by a short present-tense story that is usable on the Web and by broadcasters. The third step is to add details and format stories in ways most appropriate for various news platforms.

Editors at the Telegraph in London are following a similar approach and have seen a big jump in traffic at the newspaper's Web site. The study said the Telegraph has adopted the mind-set of a broadcast-news operation to quickly build from headlines to short stories to complete multimedia packages online to boost readership.

The study's purpose was to obtain a deeper and more holistic understanding of the news consumption behavior of younger audiences. The results were scheduled to be presented Monday in a 71-page report to media executives and editors from around the globe at the World Editors Forum in Goteborg, southwestern Sweden.

A key finding was that participants yearned for quality and in-depth reporting but had difficulty immediately accessing such content because they were bombarded by facts and updates in headlines and snippets of news.

The study also found that participants were unable to give full attention to the news because they were almost always simultaneously engaged in other activities, such as reading e-mail. That represents a shift from previous consumption models in which people sat down to watch the evening news or read the morning paper.

"Our observations and analysis identified that consumers' news diets are out of balance due to the over-consumption of facts and headlines," said Robbie Blinkoff, co-founder and head anthropologist at Baltimore, Md.-based Context-Based Research Group.

To combat that, the authors recommended that news producers develop easier ways for readers to discover in-depth content and to avoid repetitious updates of breaking news.

The research was conducted in six major metropolitan areas around the globe: Houston, Silicon Valley, Philadelphia and Kansas City in the United States; Brighton, Britain; and Hyderabad, India.