Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
As podcasts grow, the podcast freelance economy takes shape
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 27, 2014, 11:39 a.m.

A researcher at Stanford has some new insight into how content — specifically, visual content — becomes massively popular on Facebook, a phenomenon he calls cascade sharing.

Justin Cheng wanted to see if it was possible to predict what content would be shared over and over again. With the help of some people at Facebook, they were able to get access to data that showed “which people (nodes) reshared each photograph and at what time.”

Cheng and pals use a portion of their data to train a machine learning algorithm to search for features of cascades that make them predictable.

These features include the type of image, whether a close-up or outdoors or having a caption and so on; the number of followers the original poster has; the shape of the cascade that forms, whether a simple star graph or more complex structures; and finally how quickly the cascade takes place, its speed.

Having trained their algorithm, they used it to see whether it could make predictions about other cascades. They started with images that had been shared only five times, so the question was whether they would eventually be shared more than 10 times.

It turns out that this is surprisingly predictable. “For this task, random guessing would obtain a performance of 0.5, while our method achieves surprisingly strong performance: classification accuracy of 0.795,” they say.

There’s a lot more work to be done in this area of research, but some of Cheng’s findings — for example, content that is shared rapidly is likely to become viral — could be useful in a publishing context.

Show tags Show comments / Leave a comment
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
As podcasts grow, the podcast freelance economy takes shape
AIR has come up with suggested rates of compensation for those who do freelance work for podcasts, where a new injection of for-profit companies is complicating the math of public media.
A program in New Jersey is trying to get people to care about local news through community organizing
Free Press’ News Voices: New Jersey is meant to be “community-driven as opposed to being newsroom-driven.”
Scratch Magazine was profitable, but it’s still shutting down — here’s what its founder learned
Scratch Magazine toed the line between “servicey and intellectual,” cofounder Manjula Martin says. That was one reason the paywalled site didn’t make much money.
What to read next
2843
tweets
A blow for mobile advertising: The next version of Safari will let users block ads on iPhones and iPads
Think making money on mobile advertising is hard now? Think how much more difficult it will be with a significant share of your audience is blocking all your ads — all with a simple download from the App Store.
1763For news organizations, this was the most important set of Apple announcements in years
A new Flipboard-clone with massive potential reach, R.I.P. Newsstand, and news stories embedded deeper inside iOS — it was a big day for news on iPhones and iPads.
828Newsonomics: 10 numbers that define the news business today
From video to social, from mobile to paywalls — these data points help define where we are in the “future of news” today, like it or not.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
Apple
Media Consortium
Mozilla
The Weekly Standard
Newsday
Windy Citizen
San Francisco Chronicle
The Batavian
Fwix
Hacks/Hackers
Honolulu Civil Beat
The Washington Post