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Engagement is 29% higher on premium sites than on social media

A preview of a new study by Newsworks, the Association for Online Publishing (AOP) and Neuro-Insight was presented at the MRG conference on 5 December 2017 (see a selection of tweets above). The full findings will be released in January 2018.

The research, which set out to explore why the quality context that editorial media provide works, focuses on the physiological effects that environments have on brain response to advertising.

Headline findings show that ads placed in a premium context are viewed for longer, have higher engagement (+29%) and generate higher levels of left-brain encoding (+42%) than when those same ads are placed within social media.

By measuring participants' brain responses to ads in different contexts, three key neuroscience metrics are measured:

  • Long-term memory encoding – Memory encoding is key because it correlates with decision-making and purchase intent. It is measured for both left brain (detail and language) and right brain (more global aspects of processing)
  • Engagement – Engagement is an indicator of how involved people are and is generally triggered by material that is of personal relevance
  • Emotional intensity – Emotional intensity relates to the strength of emotion being experienced



139 participants, aged 18-60 years and recruited to reflect a range of online media usage.

A three stage approach was used:

Free browsing – Participants freely browsed different websites via either desktop or mobile and naturally encountered various different brand communications

Exposure to ads in different contexts – Each respondent saw the same test ads in two different environments; a premium editorial context and a social media context

Filmed online journey – Participants viewed a film of someone navigating an online journey through both a premium site and a social media site

Througout, participants' brain responses were individually measured and time stamped so as to determine brain response at any one point in time. Analysis involved looking at average levels of response to each ad in its different context.


For more information, please contact:

Jessie Sampson
communications manager, Newsworks
phone: +44 (0)20 7747 2126

Anthony Jones
head of insight, Association of Online Publishing
mobile: +44 (0)7803 20 40 50


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