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How Do Psychological Motives Drive News Consumption?

"Reward-seekers" and "threat-avoiders" process news differently: Study

| BY Donald Liebenson

When it comes using mobile technology, are you a rewards-seeker or a threats-avoider? The difference may explain how you use your devices to access news content.

The study, conducted by the Missouri School of Journalisn, the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute and HCD Research, was created “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.”

It finds that adults motivated to seek out rewards are more likely to use mobile media platforms to access local and national news, compared to adults who are more concerned with avoiding threats, according to a release announcing results of the study. A rewards seeker is one who is more willing “to engage in the environment and new and novel technology,” Paul Bolls, who co-authored the study, explained to Millionaire Corner.

The study, he said, finds “a new way of viewing the news audience and optimizing news content for that audience. Organizations are able in a time of immediate technology to design and deliver content to more niche audiences. These two groups are going to process, engage with, evaluate and response to news and advertising in very different ways.”

The desktop computer is the dominant platform for accessing online news among all respondents, but reward seekers, who tend be males ages 22-45, and the most likely to adopt the newest technology, are more inclined to include mobile media as a resource for news.

Reward-seekers, Bolls said, are more willing to engage in graphic edgy content whether it be news or entertainment. “Content and websites optimized for them need to have a much more multi-media design to them with more content options than for threat-avoiders,” he said.

For the threat-avoiders, receiving up-to-date and detailed information about natural disasters and crime is a priority, but care must be taken Bolls said, in how it is presented to this group. “They’re not going to want to see video footage of a crime scene,” he observed. “You have to be careful about making content too emotionally intense for those folks, otherwise they will disengage.”

A second quarter Millionaire Corner study on mobile technology and social media use finds that affluent households are more likely to access news on their computers, followed by tablets and then smartphones.

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.