Man with iPad Credit: C. Regina on Flickr. Some rights reserved.
Stonewash, which helps magazines publish issues on mobile devices, has announced a research project into the reading and consumption habits of magazine and newspaper readers.

Project Alpha is a collaboration between the co-founders of Stonewash and a growing number of research partners, including representatives from media businesses such as Briefing Media, the Kernel and Emap, who will help to identify the key areas for publishers, editors and advertisers in how magazines are read on mobile devices.

"From an editor's point of view," Daniel Sharp, co-founder of Stonewash, told Journalism.co.uk, "wouldn't it be great to be able to ask, simultaneously, a billion people using magazines, whether they tend not to read long articles when they're in the back half of the magazine, or where does interview content sit best and get read most?

"It's the idea of being able to use the data to put some actual science into how magazines are planned and how the content is arranged or what's written."

Sharp explained that the data would include everything from geolocation and dwell time to how users physically interact with their devices while reading and how often they return to issues and articles over time.

"If you imagine every single variable that you could record, it's recorded," continued Sharp. "So do people flick forward through them or backwards through them, do they zoom much, how are they holding it, are they using their thumbs or fingers? But also things like are they moving, do people tend to download magazines at home and read them on the train?"

Stonewash will release a report later in the year in which their research partners will detail how the data has been used to answer their specific questions on the areas which interested them most.

"We're trying to encourage them not to think about the information," said Sharp, "not to think about the data that we've got and just ask questions, stuff that would be really useful and we'll find a way of making that data answer those questions."

As such, this launch report is viewed as a primer for the project's "dashboard", which Sharp said will allow subscribers to explore the data and learn more about readers' habits and how they are influenced across different sectors.

Sharp said that the data would be equally useful for advertisers and publishers, in addition to its editorial uses, in how best to present magazines on a tablet.

"What they're looking to us for," said Sharp, "is to answer questions like 'is there a certain colour space that makes people react?' or 'do certain font sizes make people dwell on pages longer?', 'is it long copy ads or short copy ads that get people clicking?'. All these kind of things."

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