The New York Times’ John Tierney posted an interesting article yesterday about what type of news articles seem to go “viral” on the esteemed publication’s site. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania intensely studied the publication’s list of emailed articles, checking it four times an hour for six months to identify which topics get shared the most amongst Times readers.
The general consensus was that the most viral news stories are those that stir up emotion, are surprising and most of all awe-inspiring. To be quite honest, these findings aren’t that surprising to me given the demographic of Times’ readers.
However, it is refreshing to see that in this online world where leading viral content is typically a video of a skater almost breaking his neck in a bad fall, that folks over at the Times are still opting to make positive news stories and scientific marvels viral.
A snipped from Tierney’s article:
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page.
The results are surprising — well, to me, anyway. I would have hypothesized that there are two basic strategies for making the most-e-mailed list. One, which I’ve happily employed, is to write anything about sex. The other, which I’m still working on, is to write an article headlined: “How Your Pet’s Diet Threatens Your Marriage, and Why It’s Bush’s Fault.”
But it turns out that readers have more exalted tastes, according to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman. People preferred e-mailing articles with positive rather than negative themes, and they liked to send long articles on intellectually challenging topics.
Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe, an emotion that the researchers investigated after noticing how many science articles made the list.
Click here to read the full story.