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Attracting Views and Going Viral: How Message Features and News‐Sharing Channels Affect Health News Diffusion

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This study examined how intrinsic as well as perceived message features affect the extent to which online health news stories prompt audience selections and social retransmissions, and how news‐sharing channels (e‐mail vs. social media) shape what goes viral. The study analyzed actual behavioral data on audience viewing and sharing of New York Times health news articles, and associated article content and context data. News articles with high informational utility and positive sentiment invited more frequent selections and retransmissions. Articles were also more frequently selected when they presented controversial, emotionally evocative, and familiar content. Informational utility and novelty had stronger positive associations with e‐mail‐specific virality, whereas emotional evocativeness, content familiarity, and exemplification played a larger role in triggering social media‐based retransmissions.
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Keywords: Big Data; Computational Social Science; Diffusion; Message Effects; Retransmission; Selection; Selective Exposure; Social Media; Virality

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2015

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