News companies can increase engagement by creating rewards-based habits


The INMA Consumer Engagement Summit on Thursday talked about habits and how they can work to a news organization’s advantage.

Habits have cues, routines and rewards, and engagement has to do with the reward part. Charles Duhigg, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist says that understanding how people behave comes easily if we understand the how to use rewards. To understand rewards, neurology is involved.

In a lab study, researchers found that people stop thinking when they perform habits. In fact, the amount of brain activity when someone is doing a habitual activity is about the same as during sleep. People engage in habitual acts because they’re automatic and require no thinking.


A way to engage readers is to rely on their habits. Here is where rewards come in. Habits are reinforced through explicit rewards. Media organizations should work toward giving readers emotional rewards, which will increase their likeliness to engage with the paper and make it a habit. 

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