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National Media Study Reveals Need to Optimize Online News Content in Response to Consumers’ Motivati

— Reward seekers more likely than threat avoiders to gravitate toward mobile media for news

Flemington, NJ, September 18, 2012 – The results of a national media study revealed that adults who are motivated to seek out rewards rather than avoid threats are more likely to use mobile media platforms to access local and national news compared to adults who are more concerned with avoiding threats than seeking out rewards.

The difference is largest among smart phone users with 27% of reward seekers compared to 12% of threat avoiders who consider the smart phone to be a very important technology for accessing news. The results indicate that the desktop computer is still the dominant platform for accessing online news among all individuals. However, reward seekers are more inclined to include mobile media in the news consumption.

Reward seekers are also significantly more likely to comment on, recommend and share online news stories than threat avoiders. Reward seekers tend to be aged 22-45 and are more likely to be male than female.

The study was conducted by the Missouri School of Journalism, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI) and HCD Research in March among a national sample of 1,039 between the ages of 18-70 to determine their media use and reactions to various media images.

The intent of the study was to obtain a deeper understanding of the psychological motives that drive media preferences and use to help news outlets and advertisers optimize content and delivery platforms for their target audiences.

Among the key findings:

  1. Receiving up-to-date, detailed information about natural disasters and crime is more important to threat avoiders than reward seekers, while receiving up-to-date information on sports is more important to reward seekers than threat avoiders.

  2. Online news must be designed and optimized by category in order to appeal to reward seekers versus threat avoiders.

  3. Reward seekers demonstrate a stronger preference for videos embedded with online news.

  4. Threat avoiders are more likely than reward seekers to perceive that detailed reporting instead of news briefs is more important for crime, natural disasters and politics.

The survey measured individual differences in approach and defensive related motivations and related them to variation in online media use and preferences. The outcome of the study will be detailed psychological profiles of news audiences that go beyond existing audience data.

HCD Research conducted the study as part of a growing collaboration with the Missouri School of Journalism’s Psychological Research on Information and Media Effects PRIME Lab to conduct scientific research on the psychology of media audiences. The national media study was funded by the Reynolds Journalism Institute (RJI).

“The most interesting outcome of the study is that the findings can provide news organizations with suggestions to optimize news content for mobile platforms that will more effectively engage individuals who perceive mobile platforms as a critical tool for their online news consumption” explained Paul Bolls, associate professor and co-director of the PRIME Lab.

According to Glenn Kessler, president and CEO of HCD Research, the results of the study are in line with the trends that he is seeing among his client base. “While we continue to conduct a fair amount of traditional website optimization studies, the trend is rapidly moving toward the design and optimization of mobile websites, particularly for sales and marketing initiatives,” explained Kessler.

Headquartered in Flemington, NJ, HCD Research conducts communications research for clients in the pharmaceutical, financial, food and beverage, politics and entertainment industries. For additional information on the company’s consumer studies go to: or research services go to:

Founded in 2004, RJI has launched more than 60 journalism initiatives (, most of them in collaboration with the nation’s leading news media companies and professional journalism and advertising organizations. RJI brings together professional journalists, scholars and industry leaders to collaborate and connect with citizens, and its programs are aimed at improving journalism in the service of democracy.

Since publishing the student-staffed University Missourian on Sept. 14, 1908, the Missouri School of Journalism has been the international leader in hands-on journalism education, also known as the "Missouri Method." The first to offer bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in the field, the School is also the distinguished home of several national journalism organizations, mid-career professional programs and a thriving research agenda.

Editors/Reporters: For more information on the studies, or to speak with Glenn Kessler, president and CEO, HCD Research, please contact Vince McGourty, HCD Research, at (908) 483-9121 or (

Brian Steffens, RJI director of communications:, (573) 882-8251



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