advertisement
advertisement

Shocking, Football, Tornado, Porn: Science Explains Why You’ll Read This Article

Shocking, Football, Tornado, Porn: Science Explains Why You’ll Read This Article

Don’t write about finance. Or markets. Or, for the sake of little children everywhere, petroleum. These public affairs are highly unappealing topics to most of us. Stick to safer bets like religion, sports, crime, or–and this is one of those rare gems in publishing that you can never predict–disasters!

advertisement

What you’ve just read isn’t just my editorial advice, it’s one of the chief findings of a recent study by the University of Bristol’s Intelligent Systems Laboratory, which parsed over 2 million “Top Stories” or “Most Popular” articles by news outlets including NPR, the New York Times, the BBC, Forbes, and Reuters to discover the trends behind the world’s most-read stories.


From news.com.au–the pink are popular keywords, the black are unpopular.

The biggest secret to creating clickable content is focusing on what researchers called non-public affairs (that includes sports, fashion, and even environmental topics). The second biggest secret, as discovered by William Randolph Hearst over a hundred years ago, is to write headlines with “linguistic subjectivity”–or sentiment-loaded adjectives that enlist your attention. Say what you will about People, but they decimate some of the world’s most respected publications in sheer global appeal (which, yes, is a sickening thought in its own way).


Of course, all hope is not lost. The study did find that demographics have a strong influence on popular content within each publication niche. In other words, while News.com.au readers are drawn to the almost sociopathically interrelated terms like women, sex, rape, (and oddly enough, tiger), Forbes readers are happy to peruse articles on billionaires, apps, and America.

But it does make you wonder, if Forbes ditched finance and just started a tabloid about sex crimes, would its global appeal go up? Quite possibly.

Read more here, and the study here [PDF].

[Hat tip: PopSci]

[Illustration: Kelly Rakowski/Co.Design]

advertisement
advertisement