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How sharing changes news and those who tell it

How sharing changes news and those who tell it

We believe sharing will drive a new era of journalism. Distribution methods have always shaped content production and resource allocation.
Arresting front pages traditionally sold more newspapers – so news organisations invested in crime reporters, photographers and editors.
Salacious celebrity stories boosted page views on news sites – so online newsrooms developed a more interesting but less important news mix, one that could be consumed by people at the privacy of their workstation. Increasingly, stories are being shared among millions of readers on Facebook and Twitter. To stay ahead of the trend, we are seeking to understand what makes stories shareable and how this new distribution force will change workflows, roles and resourcing. We call this project Share Wars.

At the heart of the changes are the motivations for sharing content and how the subset of shared content relates to the total set of what is read. Sharing is a conscious action that reflects on the sharer and his or her relationship with their network. In browsing state, users often click on the first interesting link they notice. This is a private action with low investment. There is little at stake. But in sharing a link, you make a statement about yourself to your audience. The story is likely to be of consequence to you and your friends.

After initial analysis of the sharing behaviour of ninemsn users, we’ve identified some elements that might contribute to a story being shared among this audience. These include:

  • deviance and humour
  • that element news editors have long suspected: pertaining to animals.
  • age-old journalism drivers such as exclusivity and novelty

Of course, different publications’ audiences will exhibit different sharing behaviours. We recognise the work of Katherine Milkman and Jonah Berger at Wharton, who found the readers of The New York Times were more likely to share “awe-inspiring” science-focused stories. We also acknowledge Yuri Lifshits at Yahoo!, whose study of 45 news sites in the US and UK found opinion articles were the most shared.

Our central idea is that this sharing era will irrevocably change journalism – in many ways for the better.

Click here for more on Share Wars.

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