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What’s catching your eye when you browse the web? On the highly crowded information highway of the Web, any web page only has a few seconds to attract attention. But how do you know what grabs people’s attention? Doing an eye-tracking experiment will be too time-consuming and costly. Testing a new page layout (or more than one layout per day) each day is virtually impossible.

But as I introduced in my last post, a new tool is now available: it lets you run a quick test of what will grab people’s attention, even (and especially) during brief exposures. eye2D2 is an algorithm based on decades of research in the psychology, neuroscience and psychophysiology of visual processing. The algorithm has been developed and validated on hundreds of images, web pages, ads and more.

So how about testing what parts of today’s news pages are visually magnetic? Which stories will attract more attention based purely on the way they are presented?

Here, I have run four of the most visited news pages on the Web: The Washington Post, The People’s daily, New York Times and the Guardian:

And the results of the analyses are as follows. For the Guardian, we see that the story about how X-rays reveal secret about the Tudor spymaster portrait is the most visually magnetic part of the screen. Equally magnetic, despite it’s relative small size, is the story that McIlroy may sidestep 2016 Olympics.  Other stories, such as Guardian’s dating site, the square-up between Balotelli and Mancini, and that Boehner is re-elected as speaker in US are also expected to gain some extra attention. Click on the image to see a larger version

The Guardian


The next site to be tested is The Washington Post, where the most salient story is the one that FTC finds no evidence that Google favors own service. Two stories also make the top of today’s visual magnetism chart, including the top-left story about Boechner, and the story about McConnell and Biden.

Washington Post


On the New York Times page, one can see that the most visually magnetic news items are the small but salient Offstage and off guard, closely followed by three stories: re-election of Boehner (also here a magnetic story…people will remember this one!), that Hezbollah leader presses Lebanon to act on Syria, and Rolling out a mat, behind barbed wire.

New York Times


Finally, the Chinese newspage People’s Daily has only a single visually magnetic story! It’s the one stating that Black-headed gulls come to Kunming for winter. The menus are relatively salient, and the list of multiple news items would also be expected to generate attention. As this page changes images frequently in loops, it would be advisable to test the different versions, as the actual magnetism changes dynamically with context.

People’s Daily Online

This was a relatively fast and simple demonstration of the utility of how eye2D2 can be used to test multiple complex images, with a rapid turnover and at a low cost compared to traditional eye-tracking and point-click methods. As noted before, the model has proven highly reliable and has a high accuracy compared with eye-tracking data. I will post more about this soon. Keep tuned ;-)


11 Responses to “Today’s most visually magnetic news stories”

  1. NR Sign EEG says:

    I think it is more the pictures than the articles that grab the attention.
    Rather than X-rays revealing secrets, it is the Tudor portrait that is the lure.

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  3. Dave says:

    This tool, if truly works, can really improve how websites and newspapers are structured. But I agree with the others that photos can really make a page attractive. The format and colors are also one of the important factors that must be considered here.

  4. tzramsoy says:

    Thanks for the comments. The tool itself works fine, and is reliable and valid. Websites, newspaper “real estate”, store shelves, magazine layout, the lot. It is a good predictor of the likelihood that something will be noticed, and even more the likelihood that it will affect choice. The talk of bottom up attention and visual magnetism is becoming a new language in and outside marketing.

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