Haan, Y. de., Kruikemeier, S., Lecheler, S., Smit, G., and Nat, R. van der. (2017) When Does an Infographic Say More Than a Thousand Words? Journalism Studies Vol. 0 , Iss. 0,0
In recent years, the use of visualizations or infographics in the news has become increasingly popular. We know, however, surprisingly little about how news consumers use and appreciate news visualizations. We apply a mixed-method approach to answer these two questions. First, we conduct an eye-tracking study that measures use, by means of direct attention to visualizations on three different news platforms (print newspaper, e-newspaper on tablet, and news website). Second, we conduct focus groups and a survey among readers of three news media to study the extent to which news consumers actually value the inclusion of visualizations in the news. Our results show that news consumers do indeed read news visualizations, regardless of the platform on which the visual is published. We also find that visualizations are appreciated, but only if they are coherently integrated into a news story and thus fulfill a function that can be easily understood. With this study, we provide the first comprehensive picture of the usefulness of information visualizations in the news, and contribute to a growing literature on alternative ways of storytelling in journalism today.