Tuesday’s New York Times reports a study from University of Pennsylvania researchers who studied the New York Times most e-mailed articles for six months. In their study “Social Transmission and Viral Culture,” Wharton School professors Jonah Berger and Katherine L. Milkman sought to determine what causes “virality” online. That is to say, what makes 120 million people view a video of a middle-aged Scotswoman belting out a song that’s usually the kiss of death in an audition?
Turns out it’s “awe-inspiring”and “positive” articles. People are more likely to e-mail articles meeting these criteria than negative articles.
A particularly interesting finding of the study was that article length wasn’t a factor. Long articles were as likely to be e-mailed as short ones.
For those of us who want to produce quality online content, this helps confirm what we instinctively know. There is an audience for quality writing online. We just have to know how to find it.