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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