Study Confirms Most People Share Articles Based Only On Headlines

Study Confirms Most People Share Articles Based Only On Headlines September 14, 2018

Most people don’t read the news. Instead, they read the headline and determine if it’s worth sharing.

The fact is that, just by getting this far in the article, you have defied a pattern and proven that some people do actually care about content. You’ve shown that, although there is a clear trend regarding apathy about substance, it’s possible to change that.

Okay, so let me come clean. There’s no new study. But it’s true that most people share and comment on articles after only reading the headlines, and that has been confirmed by research in the past.

We’ve all been guilty of sharing an article we haven’t actually read—or at least not all the way through—but few of us have attempted to quantify or consider the ramifications of this effect.

A recent study confirmed this phenomenon isn’t in our heads; in fact, 59 percent of all links shared on social networks aren’t actually clicked on at all, implying the majority of article shares aren’t based on actual reading. People are sharing articles without ever getting past the headlines. So why is this the case—isn’t the body of an article supposed to be the most important part? What does this mean for content marketers? And what does this mean for our society?

Public domain
The evolution of technology has made it easier to share news without even reading it.

Another famous example of this disturbing phenomenon is when Science Post published a deceiving article (that made a great point). The content was essentially gibberish (it was Latin, which is pretty much the same thing) but the headline was popular.

On June 4, the satirical news site the Science Post published a block of “lorem ipsum” text under a frightening headline: “Study: 70% of Facebook users only read the headline of science stories before commenting.”

Nearly 46,000 people shared the post, some of them quite earnestly

So, the headline isn’t wrong, which is how I convinced myself to write this important piece. I realized that I couldn’t knowingly spread “fake news,” but I wanted to make a point and show other people that we are all susceptible to it.

We judge news based on the headline or the media outlet, or even the credibility of the person who shared the article, but the only way we can truly understand what’s going on is if we take the time to read the piece for ourselves.

I’m not saying you have to read every article you see. But if you’re going to share an article and increase its influence, it may be worth checking it first. Except this article… this one you can share without reading. 😉

So, for my parting words, I’ll leave you with this: think critically and stay skeptical!


Yours in Reason,

David G. McAfee (support my work here)

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