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:
- 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.
- Online news must be designed and optimized by category in order to appeal to reward seekers versus threat avoiders.
- Reward seekers demonstrate a stronger preference for videos embedded with online news.
- 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.