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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Sonya Song, the current Knight-Mozilla Fellow at The Boston Globe, has done a regression analysis of the paper’s Facebook presence. (“Through my analysis, I hoped to answer two questions. What types of stories are shared by the Boston Globe staff on the social media platform? In turn, how do different types of shared stories differently affect Facebook users’ reading and sharing?”)

So what characteristics of Facebook postings correlates with attention? Song identifies five:

Image size (none, thumbnail, single-column, and double-column)
Without or without a “breaking” label in the caption
Time of sharing (hour and weekday)
News topic defined by editors (business, metro, sports, etc.)
Related to the Boston Marathon bombing or not

A “breaking” label meant 57 percent more engagement on average; larger images also meant more engagement, but small thumbnails didn’t help much; and engagement around stories peaked around 8 a.m. and late at night:

I talked with Joel Abrams at the Boston Globe about why peaks appeared in the early morning and late night. We’ve conjured up two theories for the phenomenon. First, people check Facebook more frequently before and after work, for instance, on commute or in bed. Second, quite uncooperatively, newsrooms share fewer stories during those “idling” hours because social media editors are also not at work. As such, those hours may see a shortage of new posts and therefore there is less competition for attention seekers. In the future, we could experiment with sharing stories in the early morning and late night to see if we could possibly boost traffic.

What’s a posting that sparked a lot of conversation?

Romeo and Juliet, the swans who reside at the Boston Public Garden during the summer (and at Franklin Park Zoo during the winter), returned there today in a sign that the spring season is truly here. See photos: http://b.globe.com/ZOid4O

What’s one that didn’t?

#Recipe for paella-stuffed peppers http://goo.gl/PwlBT

My favorite finding is Song’s identification of a particular kind of story that leads to lots of conversation: the “there’s a problem but there have been (or would be) a solution” story. Examples:

Tie but broken by miracle win in sports
Failed to finish marathon but were invited back to do it
Marathon bombing victims but were given medical care
Natural disaster but children were saved
Chance of cancer but intervention minimized it

— Joshua Benton
                                   
What to read next
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Caroline O'Donovan    Aug. 20, 2014
Andrew Golis wanted to build a network for sharing stories that would provide relief from our contemporary content cascade.
  • http://www.onfiremediaonline.com/ ‘TC’ Teresa Clark

    Joshua,

    I like your ideas on what postings sparked conversations and what ones didn’t. Here are some of my thoughts when creating content.

    I educate my customers. Letting customers know about your industry, who you are, and what your business can offer them that exceeds all competition can create more business. Some suggestions when doing this would be to share a little bit about the industry first. Also share amusing stories about past encounters with consumers. Often times get with your employees and have them give a story or two about the craziest or funniest clients they have helped in the past 3 months.

    Thanks,

    T.C.