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)
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]
U.S. newspaper circulation struggled with only a tiny increase in March 2012, compared to a year earlier, but digital circulation surged by 63 percent, according to the latest figures from the the Audit Bureau of Circulations.
Digital circulation now accounts for 14.2 percent of newspapers’ total circulation mix, and note the term refers to tablet or smartphone apps, PDF replicas, metered or restricted-access websites, or e-reader editions. The figure in March 2011 was 8.66 percent.
Average daily circulation increased .68 percent, covering 628 papers.
The Grey Lady was one of the clear winners from this report. The New York Times enjoyed a 73 percent surge in circulation to 1.58 million, with digital readership of 807,026 overtaking print circulation of 779,731. The Times remained the top Sunday newspaper with total average circulation of just over two million, including more than 737,000 digital.
Coming out as one of the top losers, The Washington Post faced a 7.8 percent circulation decrease, a trend closely mirrored by the Detroit Free Press (6.27 percent decrease).
AFP writes, “US newspapers have been grappling with a steep drop in print advertising revenue, steadily declining circulation and the migration of readers to free news online. But more newspapers are developing models for paid online subscriptions or apps for tablets or phones.”
If you notice something strangely arcade-like on this online New York Times article, you’re not going through video game withdrawal. A New York Times magazine article on gaming includes a simple video game you can play on the screen, allowing you to shoot any of the boxes and widgets surrounding the text.
Adapted by Jon Huang, a multimedia producer at The Times, the game is based on a two-year-old game called Kick Ass. It lets you to blow up websites, to put it simply, using only cursors and the spacebar.
“I wanted to share a joke with the reader,” Huang said about bringing the open-source code to the New York Times website.
The Times writes “even the ad sales department was O.K. with letting the ads on the page be blown up.”
The article in question looks at what the author calls “stupid games” to reflect each generation’s obsession with simple yet addictive video games, from Tetris to Angry Birds.
Despite being known as the “Grey Lady” and having a legacy as old-school mainstream media, The Times has experimented with its web page before, Mashable notes. A homepage ad in February for Met Life, for instance, let you play piano like Schroeder, the Peanuts character
U.S. political magazine The New Republic announced today they will be droppings its paywall, offering its online content free to visitors.
A blog post on the magazine’s website wrote: “This decision is in line with our desire to enable new readers to discover and share the best of what TNR’s writers produce each day.”
The post emphasizes visitors will only be able to access current content; the archives will only be available to subscribers. Also, subscribers – digital or print – will be the only ones who can comment on the site.
The Atlantic Wire writes despite its reputation in political circles and its impressive 100-year history, “the magazine has struggled to make money, cutting back ad pages in the paper edition while trying to increase subscribers on the web.”
It would be unreasonable to assume The New Republic made this move to answer the New York Times’ recent decision to restrict access to its online content, but with such strong political content on both sites, it wouldn’t be wrong to suggest the two are competing news outlets.