Our favorite picture this week is the below graphic, initially
posted on Gawker by Annalee Newitz, in
Virality and the Valley of Ambiguity.
The question of what makes content go viral is one that no content creator, even the most highbrow, is immune to obsessing about (we certainly do at Wamda).
There may be no hard and fast rule, but Newitz convincingly breaks it down to one factor: ambiguity. The pieces of content that people share the most, she argues, are those that reveal a hidden truth- journalism's highest calling- or those that make people feel better, without being too difficult to analyze (like, say, a LOLcat picture).
What doesn't get shared easily is anything overly complicated or with an ambiguous interpretation; the more readers have to think about whether they support or understand the piece, the less likely they are to give it a quick click of approval.
Of course, there's still a market for articles that cover, say,
political news with a complex backstory, which could also be
presented as myth or stereotype debunking (something we strive
for). And of course, focusing on virality alone won't guarantee
The rule of ambiguity isn't just useful for content portals; it's a great metric for any startup thinking about a new product or marketing campaign: you don't have to design the next LOLcat to be heard. Truth-telling also sells.
(Click the image for a larger version).