Why You Share

A team of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania spent a good six months studying The New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, hoping to figure out what articles get shared, and why. And here's what they essentially found:

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.

This goes a long way toward explaining why 3.4 million people have watched The Known Universe since mid December. And, as Bill Rankin rightly suggested to me, it says something good about online culture, and what makes Open Culture work as a site. Each day, we try to give you a little awe and challenge. And for our next post: 10,000 Galaxies in 3D.


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  • I think the study was too narrowly focused on just the ’email to a friend’ option. Why not include more social methods of sharing (e.g. Facebook, twitter, etc).

    I never use the ’email to a friend’ function because it’s so impersonal; it always tends to looks like a form a letter when it reaches its recipient.

    I wonder if the exclusion of these other channels was to the detriment of the research.

    Just throwing it out there…

  • mike gibbowr says:

    If that doesn’t give a person pause for thought… I don’t know what will.

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