Reader referrals drove 61 per cent of the nearly 10 million clicks in a random sample of news stories posted on Twitter, said the researchers from Columbia University in the US and the French National Institute (Inria).
“Readers know best what their followers want. In the future, they will have more and more say about what’s newsworthy,” said Augustin Chaintreau, computer science professor at Columbia Engineering.
The researchers attempted to peer under the hood by collecting all the open data they could find — the number of Twitter’s 280 million followers who potentially viewed and shared a news link shortened by the web app, Bit.ly, and how many clicks those links received.
Eighty two per cent of shares, and 61 per cent of clicks, of the tweets in the study sample referred to content readers found on their own.
But the crowd’s relative influence varied by outlet — 85 per cent of clicks on tweets tied to a BBC story came from reader recommendations while only 10 per cent of tweets tied to a Fox story did.
“People are more willing to share an article than read it. This is typical of modern information consumption. People form an opinion based on a summary, or summary of summaries, without making the effort to go deeper,” said Arnaud Legout, research scientist at Inria.
The researchers presented their results at the Association for Computing Machinery’s Sigmetrics conference in Nice, France, recently.