Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Mail Instinct

In "Will You Be E-Mailing This Column? It’s Awesome," this "most e-mailed" story from this week's New York Times about -- what else -- the most e-mailed stories of the New York Times claims to present some actual research about what makes certain news stories have epistolary appeal rather than just another example of Internet infinite regress.

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.

The results are surprising — well, to me, anyway. I would have hypothesized that there are two basic strategies for making the most-e-mailed list. One, which I’ve happily employed, is to write anything about sex. The other, which I’m still working on, is to write an article headlined: “How Your Pet’s Diet Threatens Your Marriage, and Why It’s Bush’s Fault.”

But it turns out that readers have more exalted tastes, 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.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home