Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What NYT stories you are likely to send on to your friends

Source: "Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It’s Awesome," By JOHN TIERNEY, The New York Times, February 8, 2010

I quote:
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have intensively studied the New York Times list of most-e-mailed articles, checking it every 15 minutes for more than six months, analyzing the content of thousands of articles and controlling for factors like the placement in the paper or on the Web home page.....

according to the Penn researchers, Jonah Berger and Katherine A. Milkman. 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. In general, they found, 20 percent of articles that appeared on the Times home page made the list, but the rate rose to 30 percent for science articles, including ones with headlines like “The Promise and Power of RNA.”
Comment: There may be something here as to how people socially construct knowledge in the Internet age, or at least how people who read the New York Times and use the Internet do.

I have been posting recently about how conspiracy theories spread and why people from red states and people from blue states (politically) have different views. In both cases I think the phenomena are related to the social construction of beliefs, and the University of Pennsylvania research may shed some light on the process of social construction. After all, it seems probable that we are more likely to be influenced by information we receive warranted by people we like and respect, especially if they are sending on information from a respected source. So it is interesting to see what distinguishes stories that people email to their friends. JAD

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