I am on a mailing list for the Cognitive Science department at Indiana University. (I've thought about going there for a PhD ever since I became a Doug Hofstaedter fan, but it seems like too much work) I received an email recently for an upcoming lecture that deals with news stories and the attention paid to the accompanying banner ads.
This study examined to what extent Web banner ads can be processed while people read online news. Reading news stories and looking at Web banner ads are the most two common activities involved with online news reading. Since two activities tend to occur concurrently, the dual task paradigm used to examine the interference effects. In this study, we changed the amount of mental resources allocated to the
reading of news stories by altering either difficulty of news content or effort of participants, and observed whether our manipulations can influence the performance of processing banner ads. First, we expected that the more difficult the news stories, the more banner ads will be remembered. The results showed that Web banners ads paired with difficult
news stories were recognized and recalled better than those paired with easy news stories.
Second, we expected that the more effort is devoted to the reading of news stories, the less cognitive resources are available to the processing of banner ads. This hypothesis was not supported. Third, we anticipated that there is the differential influence of animation on either two levels of difficulty or the two levels of effort. We predicted that if any, the impact of animation is bigger at the low level of difficulty and the low level of effort. These hypotheses were not supported. Instead, we found that for easy stories animation matters when people read news without paying much attention while for difficult stories animation matters when people read news with a high attention.
Maybe news providers will pick up on this and use it to charge higher prices for ads on more difficult news stories – whatever "difficult" means.