Content for sharing, not reading. So package that opinion

Boing Boing blog post

Boing Boing blog post

It’s often the stories that are too neat, too good to check, that get a viral amount of social sharing.

At the end of 2013, Luke O’Neil wrote about the “Share first, ask questions later” attitude of the social audience, and the media’s attempt at catering to our needs, by not questioning misleading stories, “What is new is that we’re barely even apologizing for increasingly considering the truth optional. In fact, the mistakes, and the falsehoods, and the hoaxes are a big part of a business plan driven by the belief that big traffic absolves all sins, that success is a primary virtue”.

And it was also noted, by Annalee Newitz, that with web content, complexity impedes virality. As “most of all, we don’t want to say something that we didn’t intend. And that is the danger with any story that falls into the valley of ambiguity. We can’t be sure how people will take it. We don’t want to risk our reputations on a story that can be taken more than one way.”

It’s the same as it ever was.

Jakob Nielsen’s eye-tracking study from 2008 “indicated that less than 20% of the text content is actually read on an average web page.”

So this blog post is just reminder to myself that not all written “content” is for reading, a lot is for signalling, to trigger interaction that promotes social bonding. Sharing before reading has always happened. It’s just that the presentation has changed.

To visibly carry UK tabloid newspaper The Mirror was/is a social signal, it’s not just “big headlines, pictures, analysis”… it’s the “opinion on the stories that matter to you”. The physical tabloid newspaper is a package of opinion, designed for easy sharing.

This blog post was prompted by seeing the Boing Boing blog post, pictured above. As a blog, there’s nothing to physically display, to carry under your arm – but us readers need to share an opinion, still feel the need to define / express ourselves. So the blog cleverly lets its readers scratch that itch by giving them an unambiguous Tweet to share, on social media, where many of our interactions are happening.

In conclusion: If you want your content to be shared, it will help if you have a tone of voice, as you’ll be wanting to display a point of view. And then you should be explicitly packaging these opinions for sharing, as…

And:’s motto is: “You are the content you publish”

Or as Buzzfeed’s Jonah Peretti has said (1:30:00 on the video): “You’re coming to Buzzfeed’s homepage not for yourself, but to find something to share with someone else.”




15 Responses to Content for sharing, not reading. So package that opinion

  1. Ciaran Ryan March 24, 2014 at 4:27 pm #

    Couple more links about “stories that are too neat, too good to check”:

    An MH370 theory that was simple, compelling and wrong

    And the @factbot1 Twitter account:

  2. Ciaran Ryan April 2, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    And… Mark Twain once observed, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” Others struggle to make their ideas “stick.”

  3. Ciaran Ryan June 6, 2014 at 9:53 pm #

    More hoaxes:

    • Ciaran Ryan June 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

      And Buzzfeed reporting it fairly straight:

  4. Ciaran Ryan June 6, 2014 at 10:41 pm #

    And another on the imapct of sharing before reading: “Why Britain First are nothing to do with D Day, and you should think twice before sharing on facebook”

  5. Ciaran Ryan August 21, 2014 at 9:29 pm #

    Worldnewsdailyreport creates fake articles specifically for “stupid sharing”:

  6. Ciaran Ryan September 4, 2014 at 12:16 am #

    See also, Science of Truthiness:

  7. Ciaran Ryan October 20, 2014 at 10:56 pm #

    Another example of sharing before reading:
    Paul Mason Tweet gets 26 retweets – but nobody has noticed that the interviewee is inaudible.

  8. Ciaran Ryan October 30, 2014 at 11:29 pm #


  9. Ciaran Ryan December 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

    Clickhole parody of the urge to share before checking: “You Can Either Verify Whether This Inspirational Story Is True Or Share It Now And Reap The Precious Social Capital”–1529

  10. Ciaran Ryan April 26, 2015 at 11:19 pm #

    Another hoax example: Twin Brothers Did Not Find Their Long-Lost Sister On Tinder…

  11. Ciaran Ryan May 30, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

    Another hoax – ITV fake Twitter account:

    600+ retweets for one tweet.

  12. Ciaran Ryan June 10, 2015 at 12:20 am #

    An example of getting the clicks from publishing an unchecked inaccurate story, then getting more clicks for the “apology”:

  13. Ciaran Ryan December 15, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

    Another hoax (confirmation basis around ISIS?)
    “French teacher stabbed by man claiming to be from Islamic State”

    “Paris teacher who said Isis supporter attacked him ‘invented story'”


  1. Why social media #fails happen: The BBC, #BringBackOurGirls and accuracy | New Story Studio | Digital content consultancy - May 19, 2014

    […] The issue is: It’s the stories that are too neat, too good to check, that get a viral amount of social sharing. It’s the photo that confirms preconceptions that gets re-tweeted. […]