Snakes on the brain

Still from Snakes on a PlaneThe Share Wars team faces two big challenges as it continues to analyse the data capture from last year.

First, the practicalities of getting our arms (and heads) around a data set of several million stories has tested our Excel “skills” and the processing power of Excel itself. Even more challenging has been the development of a sharing taxonomy – a meaningful and useful classification system for every story shared across the 100-plus publications we’ve tracked worldwide.

This has involved much reading of stories and comments, web searches, discussions with journalists, the use of ratios (eg. likes:total shares) and some guesswork. At least for Australian sharing we have had the advantage of our day jobs placing us close to the production coal face to view the sharing drivers in action.

We’ll publish more on this taxonomy in coming days. In the meantime, a review of the most-shared stories in Australia last week is instructive. Below is a list we provide each Friday to the PR industry site Influencing and it shows some of the biggest sharing forces at work.

Most-shared news stories – January 4-10 (Share Wars Likeable Engine)

  1. Temperatures off the charts
  2. Student finds ‘brain’ in KFC meal ninemsn
  3. Australia turns deep purple The Age
  4. ‘My goodness there’s a snake on the wing’: …
  5. Victims in Delhi rape case are to blame, …
  6. Book says measles is a ‘fantastic’ disease
  7. Muslim enclave plan for Sydney suburbs Daily Telegraph
  8. Great white shark to be killed The Australian
  9. Photo of newborn grabbing doctor’s finger ninemsn
  10. Residents call 911 over labradoodle ‘lion’ ninemsn

KFC brain, snakes on a plane, baby finger and labradoodle/lion fall into an area roughly bounded by shock/awe/amazement. These are the stories people feel compelled to share in order to freak out their friends and followers.

There’s likely more than a touch of this also in the record temperatures story (which is identical in the SMH and The Age) but its timeliness and relevance push it into another sharing category defined by the sharer’s desire to break news to their network.

The other big driver in this list is users galvinising around a controversial or highly emotive issue. Delhi rape, measles book, Muslim enclave and great white shark each share well because they fire up people, one way or the other.

Andrew Hunter

About Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Microsoft's MSN. Twitter: @Huntzie

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