News from reputable sources is most shared

By Lyndsey • NewsCred Blog • Jun 18, 2012

With the changing nature of news, the traditional competition for public attention has transformed drastically. The fate of an article hangs in whether it will spread over the Internet. Therefore, being able to predict the scope of an article’s dissemination has become increasingly important to publishers, advertisers, journalists, and content curators alike.

Traditionally, an article’s long-term success depended on its early performance and popularity with readers. Today, with the advent of social media, it is possible to predict an article’s success even before it ever hits the newsstands…or newsfeeds. A study performed by researchers from UCLA and HP has shed some light on the factors contributing to an article’s spread via social media.

The research team predicted that the news category, article source, perceived objectivity, and mention of notable celebrities, brands, or institutions would contribute to the success of an article to some degree. What they did not predict was that the original publisher of the article was the fundamental factor in predicting the spread of content online. According to The Atlantic, "what led most overwhelmingly and most predictably to sharing was the person or organization who shared the information in the first place.”

The explanation for this behavior is relatively simple. When operating on social media websites, readers realize they are not only consumers but also sources of information. Afraid to be the bearers of bad intel, they choose to share content from sources recognized as “reputable” such as The New York Times, rather than the National Examiner, for example.

For legacy newspaper brands, this study is the silver lining in an age of declining print media. Despite diminishing newspaper revenues, it’s refreshing to know that publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal, still generate the most shared articles. And this is great news not only for publishers and journalists, but also for content curators everywhere. Understanding reader behavior provides insight into which articles will be perceived as pertinent, constructive, and worth reading.

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