An interesting study of nearly 7,000 articles from New York Times shows that the most shared articles are the ones with most emotional content. Positive emotions get shared more than negative, though. Within the range of negative emotions anger and fear get shared more than sadness. Awe also increases the viral effect.
The study is based on the ”most emailed”-list and the data is from November 2008. It doesn’t include Facebook and Twitter shares. Still, I find the result thoughtful as most media, I suppose, are trying to figure out how to create journalistic content that goes viral.
Focusing on at what gets shared is about to replace focus on clicks and ”most read”-lists.
You are what you share
The articles people share are different from most read-articles. What you share shows your friends and followers what you stand for and reflects who you are. Whereas what you read stays between you and the website (and the thirdparties that your data is sold to…).
Hopefully a focus on shared content will lead to less misleading headlines and content deliberately going for easy clicks (using sex or sensation as a trigger) and move focus to quality journalism that people enjoy reading.
Personal story gets shared
I sometimes monitor what gets shared on selected international media. Recently an article from New York Times caught my attention, as it had been shared on Facebook over 95,000 times. The article ” My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant” is indeed emotional, as the journalist exposes himself as an illegal immigrant and tells his personal story. Reading it gave me the chills and made a lasting impression. At the same time it made me happy that this tabooish subject was brought to people’s awareness. The article has just what it takes to make someone share it.
Other articles with very high Facebook-sharing:
How to Talk to Little Girls – from Huffington Post, over 225,000 shares
The man who screwed an entire country ( =Berlusconi) – from Economist, over 110,000 shares
Don’t call me, I won’t call you – from New York Times, over 58,000 shares.