Which will go viral – a news article on an intriguing Mars discovery or one on a divorce between two actors? Some might think celebrity news will be shared by readers more often than the space report, but it’s the opposite, says author Jonah Berger.
When we care, we share. That’s how Berger summarizes his analysis of news articles and their shareabability in his new book Contagious: Why Thinks Catch On. The social psychologist from the University of Pennsylvania provides conclusive evidence that positive awe-inspiring news is more likely to be shared than negative news, no matter the category.
A story with emotion will compel a reader to share it with friends, Berger says in an interview. “And my research found the main driver to emotional sharing is arousal. It gets our heart beating quicker. It makes us excited…and want to tell our friends about how we’re feeling.”
For example, emotional stories can be about newcomers falling in love in NYC, Berger says, or they can focus on a new discovery in the Milky Way. How are they linked? Arousal. Awe. Both make us stroke our chin and think “Oh, never thought of that before.”
On the other hand, a story about a celebrity doing something outrageous or an obit of a popular writer might not evoke that same emotion. Sure, we might feel some sadness reading that obit, but it won’t be a strong emotion if we don’t feel close to that individual.
To come to this conclusion, Berger and his colleague Katherine Milkman analyzed the “most e-mailed” list on the New York Times website for six months, controlling for factors like how much display an article received in different parts of the homepage.
One of their first ah-ha moments came when they noticed articles and columns in the Science section were much more likely to make the list than non-science articles. Science reports made readers wonder about the mysterious…and mystery gets us talking and sharing.
“The sequester news might be important but it doesn’t arouse us,” Berger explains. “But UFO news isn’t affecting our lives but it can be quite remarkable and get people sharing it.”
In his book, Berger cites the Susan Boyle example. When the Britain’s Got Talent underdog took the stage and began singing her breath-taking song, “it was not only moving, it’s awe-inspiring. And that emotion drove people to pass it on.” We love the unexpected, and we think others should be in the same state of awe as we are.
But not just any strong emotion boosts sharing. Happiness or contentment didn’t encourage others to share articles, Berger found. A positive review of a Broadway play may evoke happiness in the reader, but it wasn’t interesting enough to be shared. Feeling relaxed or content may make us smile, but it doesn’t speed up our heart rate. It doesn’t evoke strong emotions.
Anger, though, can be a strong motivation to share a news article. Anger is high-arousal and gets us sharing our feelings with friends and family. Ever had a terrible experience with your cellphone provider? Didn’t you want to share your experience with others? When we get angry, we are aroused; when we’re aroused, we want the world to hear us through our online megaphone.
Berger found adding more arousal to a story can have a major impact on people’s willingness to share it. When his team changed details of a story to evoke more anger, that fury lead to more sharing. “Adding these emotions boosted transmission by boosting the amount of arousal the story…evoked,” he writes in Contagious.
Predicting buzz has scientific roots. This New York Times article looked at a particular brain region associated with social cognition — thoughts about other people.
“If those regions lighted up when something was heard, people were more likely to talk about the idea enthusiastically, and the idea would keep spreading,” the article found.
“You’d expect people to be most enthusiastic and opinionated and successful in spreading ideas that they themselves are excited about,” says Dr. Emily Falk, who led research on this topic. “But our research suggests that’s not the whole story. Thinking about what appeals to others may be even more important.”
This article was originally published in Digital Journal [Link]
by Andrew Moran (Guest contributor/Digital Journalist)
Is New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the midst of purchasing the Financial Times? A new report came out Monday that suggested the billionaire media mogul is considering buying the print news outlet.
“Michael R. Bloomberg is weighing the wisdom of buying The Financial Times Group, which includes the paper and a half interest in The Economist, according to three people close to Mr. Bloomberg who spoke on the condition of anonymity to divulge private conversations,” wrote reporters Michael Barbaro and Amy Chozick. “Mr. Bloomberg has long adored The Economist, and his affinity for the paper, at least as a reader, has deepened lately.”
The New York Times reported that the “stars are aligning” for the sale of the Financial Times and that Bloomberg L.P., majority owned by Mayor Bloomberg, is seriously interested in acquiring it.
Pearsons chief executive Marjorie Scardino, who is leaving at the end of the year, has said that the newspaper has not put up a for sale sign – chief executive Rona Fairhead is also leaving in April. The mayor or his staff have reportedly declined to comment on the stories.
Although Bloomberg News generates revenue through online content, Bloomberg heading a print publication is still possible because it would purchase a well-respected daily content generator. It was noted that Reuters is a likely bidder for the financial newspaper.
The news outlet also reported that Daniel Doctoroff, a confidant of Bloomberg and the chief executive of the company, has said that he is rather skeptical on a deal that would involve purchasing a print newspaper. It should be noted that others close to Bloomberg have urged him to make a large digital acquisition, such as LinkedIn.
During a visit to the Financial Times headquarters in London, he was asked if he would purchase the newspaper, in which the mayor responded, “I buy it every day.”
At a book party held by the Bloomberg Family Foundation this past spring, he recalled a conversation he once had regarding newspapers and billionaires.“Someone said the only people buying newspapers these days are billionaires with egos,” said Bloomberg. “And then he looked at me and said, ‘Like you, Mike.’”
This article was previously published in Digital Journal [Link]
Photo via Center for American Progress
by Andrew Moran (Guest contributor/Digital Journalist)
Toronto Star publisher John Cruickshank announced Monday plans to introduce a paywall structure in 2013. Complete details of the proposed plan have not been released, but it is in line with other Toronto outlets, such as the Globe and Mail.
What other news organization in Toronto is going to enforce a paywall? That is the question on the mind of many Torontonians, who have been used to reading the news on the Internet for free for many, many years.
Readers who headed on over to the TheStar.com on Monday morning may have been surprised (or not surprised depending on your aptitude on the business of media) to learn that the Toronto Star is going to implement a paywall, a measure that offers its visitors a paid-subscription for full access to its content.
“This move will provide a new source of revenue for the Star that will help support our ability to provide readers of both our print and online editions with the best and most comprehensive package of news and information in Canada,” wrote Cruickshank in the announcement. “Under the plan, most print subscribers to the Toronto Star will receive free full access to thestar.com’s content, wherever and however they want.”
Full aspects of the subscription have yet to be released, including the costs, how to register and what features readers can access.The purpose of the subscription is to generate another tool of revenues, while also providing more news stories, video content and podcasts of news from across the Greater Toronto Area and elsewhere in Canada and around the world.
“These additional revenues will strengthen our ability to invest in quality journalism, both in print and online, and provide the high quality of news, information and opinion that our readers throughout the Greater Toronto Area and across Canada have come to expect from the Star,” added Cruickshank. “They will also allow the Star to bolster its long-standing focus on delivering accurate local, national and international news that matters to our readers.”
The Toronto Star joins the likes of the Globe and Mail and National Post of Toronto outlets adding a paywall. In the United States, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times have performed the same thing. If the Star is looking to make extra revenue, the New York Times posted its third quarter numbers, which include an 85 percent drop in profits.
Some of its readers have already commented that they will not pay for something that they can receive for free elsewhere. Google News offers hundreds of news agencies that provide the news of the day at no cost, such as the Associated Press and Reuters.
This article originally appeared on Digital Journal [Link]
The number of Americans who say they read print newspapers continues to plummet, according to a new poll from Pew Research Center. Just 23 percent of Americans said they read a newspaper yesterday, while a year ago the figure was 41 percent.
Many news lovers prefer an outlet’s website to its offline format. Pew writes “55 percent of regular New York Times readers say they read the paper mostly on a computer or mobile device, as do 48 percent of regular USA Today and 44% of Wall Street Journal readers.”
Social media plays a role in discovering news, it was reported. Around 19% of the public says they saw news or news headlines on social networking sites yesterday, up from 9% two years ago.
When looking at Americans who say they regularly read a daily newspaper, 38 percent said they do, although this percentage also has declined, from 54 percent in 2004.
An interesting sidebar is the number of Americans who admit to regularly enjoying following the news. Currently, 43 percent say they enjoy following the news a lot, a decline compared with 45 percent two years ago and 52 percent in 2008, 2006 and 2004.
The Journal Register Company will seek protection under Chapter 11 “and will seek to implement a prompt sale,” according to Digital First Media head John Paton. The U.S. newspaper company, known for its Digital First strategy, has already attracted interest from an investment group affiliated with Alden Global Capital.
“I am pleased to tell you the Company has a signed stalking horse bid for Journal Register Company from 21st CMH Acquisition Co., an affiliate of funds managed by Alden Global Capital LLC,” Paton wrote on his blog.
A stalking horse bid is an initial bid on a bankrupt company’s assets from an interested buyer chosen by the bankrupt company.
Should staff be worried? Paton says no, it’s business as usual. “Journal Register Company’s filing will have no impact on the day-to-day operation of Journal Register Company, Digital First Media or MediaNews Group during the sale process. They will continue to operate their business and roll out new initiatives,” he writes.
So why file for Chapter 11? Paton explains how the company exited the 2009 restructuring with approximately $225 million in debt. Print ad revenue has slumped 19 percent rom 2009 to 2011, and print advertising represents more than half of the of Journal Register’s revenues.
Digital revenues have soared, growing 235 percent between 2009 and 2011. But it’s not enough to make up for the print ad loss, Paton writes.
“And while I get this news may make some of you nervous, don’t let it. Concentrate on the job at hand and we will work through this,” he concludes.
When Journal Register last filed for bankruptcy in 2009, James W. Hall, the CEO at the time, promised it would emerge “stronger, leaner and more financially viable in the current environment,” Poynter writes.