Study: The characteristics of highly shareable content

There may not be a formula for viral content, but stories with the following attributes are likely to spark significant sharing.

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Researching what people share most online offers valuable insights for public relations and marketing professionals.

The conventional view holds that humorous or weird posts, as well as articles about sex or cute animals, are the most shared.

If you believe that, you’re wrong.

New research from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that readers hunger for analytical and inspiring content, so publishers shouldn’t worry about the demise of high-quality journalism. Readers frequently share articles containing comprehensive analysis.

News isn’t popular on news sites

Researcher Satu Vasantola analyzed 300 articles—the most-shared pieces from the BBC and two large Finnish media companies, Yleisradio and Helsingin Sanomat.

Vasantola classified the articles by topic, genre, headline, length, angle and emotional appeal.

One striking finding was that people don’t widely share news (with the exception of breaking news). Paradoxically, news articles were the bulk of the publications’ content. Feature articles received the most shares, but they made up only a small portion of the total number of articles.

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