Online News and Older Australians: Ensuring the needs of Australia's ageing population is taken into account in the delivery of journalism online

  • University of the Sunshine Coast

  • 2013

  • Dr Renee Barnes - Senior Lecturer and Program Coordinator, Journalism, Faculty of Arts and Business


The project aimed to investigate older Australians' views on the presentation and distribution of news online, and develop a set of principles for the future development of online news delivery in Australia.  The core objective was to ensure Australia's ageing population has their needs taken into account in the presentation and distribution of news online.  Using the data collected from a survey and focus groups, a set of principles has been developed to reflect the needs and values of older Australians in relation to online news.

Results Achieved

How are older Australians engaging with online news?

The majority of participants expressed a preference for news delivered via ABC Radio or commercial television. When asked specifically about accessing news online, responses were heavily weighted at either end of the spectrum with the majority either visiting news websites several times a day or rarely (defined as 1-3 times a month) visiting an online news website.  The study revealed that females are more likely to never or rarely visit news websites; their preferred medium for news and information delivery was commercial television and ABC radio.
For those who were accessing websites, the majority were doing so via a home desktop computer.  Around a third were using a tablet computer, while only 5.8% were accessing news websites via a mobile phone.  

What are the barriers for older Australians in accessing online news?

  • The importance of tradition and routine in news consumption
  • Intimidated by or inability to use the technology
  • Perceived quality of online news
  • Cost (Internet and website subscription)
  • Poor Internet or cellular data access
  • Usability and design issues 

What are the design and usability criteria for older Australians?

  • Website design that favoured flat navigation structures with a linear list of top news headlines
  • Personalisation instruments that preserve the original layout (overriding the cascading style sheet with a readily available one using a standard browser)
  • Chunking of text and an ability to increase font size
  • Using list options for homepages and menus that enabiled accessing stories via headlines and short sypnosis, not imagery or multimedia 

Overall, iPads provided the best usability for participants.  News applications enabled an ease in reading and locating relevant information (once past initial trepidation over using unfamiliar technology).

What worked well?

  • Inclusion of industry stakeholders from the outset of the project helped ensure pragmatic research outcomes
  • Working with an organisation (in this case the U3A) to help with recruiting target participants
  • Utilising conference presentations to disseminate the results while awaiting the publication

How were obstacles overcome?

While involving industry partners from the outset ensured that the research project was strategically targeted, it did present some challenges in terms of timely delivery. Having so many people to co-ordinate for regular briefings and to supply feedback proved challenging. To overcome this issue, the research team needed to be flexible. A key learning from the project is to build much longer timeframes for key project milestones to ensure timely delivery when managing an extensive reference group.




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