Discussion paper

DP17956 Attention Spillovers from News to Ads: Evidence from an Eye-Tracking Experiment

Does online news content facilitate display advertising effectiveness? We conduct an online experiment in which subjects read various articles and are shown (randomized) ads for brands next to these articles. Using non-intrusive eye-tracking technology, we measure the attention each individual pays to each article and ad. Then, respondents are asked which ads they recall seeing, and choose between cash or vouchers for the brands advertised. We show that articles that capture more of readers’ attention increase the amount of attention readers pay to ads on the page. In turn, more attention to ads increases brand recall and purchase probability. Building on the experimental results, we formulate and estimate a stylized model of attention allocation, purchase and recall. The model features spillovers of attention from articles to ads. The type of news content (“hard” versus “soft” news) does not detectably impact ad effectiveness – evidence against the practice of “block lists” of sensitive news topics by advertisers. We discuss the implications of such attention spillovers for firms’ investments in captivating news content.


Simonov, A, T Valletti and A Veiga (2023), ‘DP17956 Attention Spillovers from News to Ads: Evidence from an Eye-Tracking Experiment‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 17956. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp17956