Is Print Media More Memorable Than Television?

Originally published by Stuff

People pay far more attention when reading a newspaper than when they are watching television, a new study has revealed.

The neuroscientific study commissioned by News Works NZ used brain-imaging technology on 120 Kiwis to examine “memory encoding” which measured how participants’ brains responded and their recall for content.

The results showed that participants were more focused and had higher levels of emotional intensity when absorbing articles and advertisements in newspapers than when gaining information through watching television.

Neuro-Insight Australia conducted the study by dividing 120 participants of varying age and ethnicity into two groups. The first read a newspaper for 15 minutes, then watched a TV programme while the second group undertook the tasks in the opposite order. The same advertisements were used in each medium.

Participants wore caps covered in sensors which measured the subjects’ cognitive function as they read papers and watched TV.

Results also showed the complementary nature of the mediums meant advertising was more likely to be filed into the participants’ long-term memory, meaning they were more likely to remember and act on advertising when making a decision to buy a product or service.

If TV advertising was seen before newspaper advertising the newspaper’s ability to drive long-term memory encoding increased by 26 per cent. If a product had a strong creative link across TV and newspapers, the long-term memory encoding increased by 37 per cent.

“Memory encoding has been validated to drive sales and behaviour change so it’s a very important measure in terms of determining effectiveness,” said Professor Richard Silberstein, chairman of Neuro-Insight Australia.

Memory was selective, he said. “People don’t remember every single experience they’ve ever had.

“The brain knows what’s important for you and stores it.”

The brain picked a moment to remember and used that moment to reconstruct an experience.

It was those “hooks” or series of encoded memories that advertisers relied on to encourage people to act on what they’d seen, read and remembered.

News Works chief executive Brian Hill said he was thrilled by the results of the New Zealand neuroscience study because it confirmed what the industry had always believed – that when people read a newspaper they gave their full attention to both the articles and the advertisements, and that it was therefore one of the most effective forms of advertising.

News Works partnered with the Marketing Association of New Zealand to host events this week in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch to share the key findings from the study with marketers and agencies.

Hill said that he was delighted with the level of interest in neuroscience expressed during the events.

“We first became aware of the growing interest in neuroscience late last year when we learned of a UK study which had contributed towards the marketing community starting to rethink how they approach their buying of digital media,” Hill said.

The UK study showed that people who viewed advertising on digital news sites were far more likely to store advertising to their long-term memory than when people viewed advertising on social media.


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