Secrets of viral news sharing examined at media seminar

10 April 2013

Why do some news stories go 'viral' over others? Why are news stories about animals more likely to be shared on Facebook than other topics? And what are the implications of news sharing for online journalism?

These questions and more will be answered on Friday 12 April at the Department of Media and Communications' Media@Sydney seminar, 'Share Wars - social media and news sharing'.

This special event will feature discussions by founders of the Share Wars project, Hal Crawford and Andrew Hunter, as they reveal the preliminary findings from the largest study of its kind into what sorts of news stories are shared most frequently and why.

Drawing on their analysis of 1.4 million stories captured from almost 120 online news websites across the globe, Crawford and Hunter will shed light on the major patterns in social media sharing they observed during a three-month period last year.

One of the key aims of the project was to determine the common drivers prompting audiences to share content on social networks, with some surprising results.

"Stories about animals are more likely to be shared than stories not about animals; that's one of the big early findings for us," says Hunter.

"What we've found is that about 60 per cent of sharing is not really sharing at all. It's what we call 'norming': people sharing content on social media to make a statement about that content and therefore about themselves."

Hunter notes the growing trend towards journalists being paid by the number of shares their stories accumulate as a clear sign that such data is increasingly relevant to online publications.

"Eventually newsrooms will be resourced to create content that is more likely to be shared than not," he explains. "Sharing is one of the next big pieces of data that will help those journalists connect better with their audiences."

Crawford is editor-in-chief of ninemsn, and Hunter is editor-in-chief of Microsoft Windows 8 apps. Together with Domagoj Filipovic, ninemsn's commercial development program manager, the pair developed the unique Share Wars experiment in 2011 to trace patterns of news sharing in real-time.

Media@Sydney is hosted by the Department of Media and Communications at the University of Sydney.


What: Share Wars - social media and news sharing', a Media@Sydney event

When: 3 - 4.30pm, Friday 12 April

Where: Room 030, New Law School Building F10, Camperdown Campus

Cost: Free

RSVP: To Madeleine King on

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Contact: Emily Jones

Phone: 02 9114 1961; 0405 208 616

Email: 2035242b0f4f222c38200076401c0a143f375b162d3801132c