Internet Users Share Links Without Reading Them: Study

Recent Chartbeat findings show that the most-shared links on Facebook and Twitter may not be the most-read links.

Internet Users Share Links Without Reading Them: Study
Flickr / Maryland GovPics

​You know those Upworthy articles your friends post that you retweet but don't actually read? Well, don't feel bad, turns out your friends probably didn't read them either.

Tony Haile, CEO for website analytics group Chartbeat, said in a tweet the company found "effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading." 

And Chartbeat data scientist John Schwartz told The Verge there’s "just not a relationship between stories that are most heavily consumed and stories that are most heavily tweeted."

With sites like Upworthy and Buzzfeed dominating social media feeds, those shares might just be empty views: users barely engaging in the page before leaving. So what’s the deal?

Slate's Farhad Manjoo thinks users' increasing number of distractions is to blame, wondering why "... people are leaving without even starting. What’s wrong with them? Why’d they even click on the page?"

A similar MediaBistro study by Hubspot's Dan Zarella shows that of over two million tweeted links, 14% of retweets had zero clicks and 16% had more retweets than clicks.

While some users habitually retweet the articles, others are slamming sites like Upworthy for their curiosity-bating headlines.

A much maligned copycat headline from CNN in January even led to criticism within the network, as Reliable Sources host Brian Stelter questioned the over-enthusiastic style.

"If everything 'blows your mind,' soon nothing's going to blow your mind."

But Upworthy is fighting back, saying that longer articles aren’t what users want, according to their new "Attention Minutes" metric.

The research also showed readers who consumed 25 percent of an article were more likely to share it than people who read 90 percent. But once readers reached the very end, they were the most likely to tweet or post the link.

In a 2013 study, NewsWhip found BuzzFeed and Upworthy were second and third respectively in social shares last year, behind The Huffington Post.