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Wednesday, February 17, 2016
Digital Media Toolbox

The case for quizzes

By Katie Steiner

In today’s digital-first news industry, priorities have turned to clicks and “attention minutes” and whatever the next big metric will be. But in all these analytics, how are we measuring readers’ understanding of news? Where is the metric showing that what we’re reporting is actually resonating with readers?

To help meet their analytics goals, many news organizations use interactive polls to engage their readers, keep them on the page longer and obtain those sought-after clicks. Although they are engaging, polls also have downsides.

In some cases, they may actually do more harm than good, because some site visitors may believe that online poll results are accurate reflections of public opinion when, in fact, they are not. Further, the widespread use of entertainment-oriented polls may miss valuable opportunities to both entertain and educate visitors.

At the Engaging News Project, we wanted to know if there was a way to improve online polls. The solution we came up with — quizzes — may seem simple but can have quite a measurable impact.

Although they may look similar to polls, quizzes have a few more benefits. Through our research, we found that people learned more from an interactive quiz than they did from a story on its own. Our study participants also spent more time on an article with a quiz than they did with a story lacking an interactive feature. Finally, participants told us they enjoyed engaging with a quiz more than reading blocks of text conveying the same information.

So, what exactly can quizzes be used for? To help get you started on creating a quiz, here are a few strategies that we and other researchers found work well.

Anything With a Right/Wrong Answer

This may seem like a given, but stories where there is a definitive right answer present a great opportunity to quiz your readers. This includes election results, health data or where a presidential candidate stands on an issue. What would not work is anything based on opinion, such as “Who should be our next president?”

Numerical Data

A story with a series of numbers, or complicated data, may be difficult for readers to comprehend when presented in an article. Having a quiz gives the audience another way of learning the information. Examples of topics include the unemployment rate, tax increases, crime statistics or opinion poll results.

Test accuracy of things people believe they remember perfectly

People often believe they are right about something that may seem pretty basic, such as who their congressional representative is (watch Jimmy Kimmel’s interviews on the street clips to see this in action). But it may turn out that they are totally wrong in their assumption. A quiz would be a great way for them to confirm their beliefs, or learn the correct information. This also provides an opportunity for the newsroom to learn about their audience and their audience’s knowledge levels, so reporters can tweak their reporting to better fit their audience’s needs.

Ready to create a quiz but not quite sure where to go? At the Engaging News Project we offer a free and easy-to-use tool that allows you to make multiple-choice or slider quizzes that can be embedded onto your website. Check out the tools at engagingnewsproject.org/create-a-quiz.

Katie Steiner is an Austin-based SPJ member and communication associate for the Engaging News Project, a research organization based at the University of Texas at Austin. Learn more about the Engaging News Project by visiting engagingnewsproject.org. On Twitter @engagingnews

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