News flash: People rarely read before tweeting stories

A traffic measurement company suggests that few people actually read the articles they share. If you spend much time online, you probably aren't surprised.

Daniel Terdiman Former Senior Writer / News
Daniel Terdiman is a senior writer at CNET News covering Twitter, Net culture, and everything in between.
Daniel Terdiman
2 min read

Earlier today, one of my CNET colleagues pointed out how many of the comments on a recent story of his clearly reflected that the people leaving them had done so without ever getting beyond the article's headline.

As someone who spends a great deal of time online, that didn't surprise me at all.

Recently, a company that measures online traffic for sites like Upworthy said it has data supporting the idea that many people are so quick to share their thoughts on what they encounter online that they don't even bother to read the story first.

According to a Friday report in the Verge, the company Chartbeat said it has done research that demonstrated that there is no correlation between people actually reading articles and tweeting about them. While Chartbeat's data was specific to Twitter, the same phenomenon likely extends to Facebook, the Verge wrote.

"There is obviously a correlation between number of tweets and total volume of traffic that goes to an article," Chartbeat lead data scientist Josh Schwartz told the Verge. "But just not a relationship between stories that are most heavily consumed and stories that are most heavily tweeted."

Schwartz was hesitant to speculate as to why this might be, saying the data was merely a starting point. But there are a number of possible explanations. Clicks from social media are more likely to come from mobile devices, where readers typically spend less time on the page.

This is hardly the first time this concept has made the rounds. Last year, Slate published an illuminating piece about the idea of people skimming stories. And given how much information is constantly flooding into all our feeds, it's no wonder. Who's got the time to read everything that comes in. I personally feel lucky if I'm able to understand the gist of the countless daily headlines that catch my attention as they zip by. Then again, as someone who asks readers to make their way through my own articles, it's only fair that I try to read to the bottom of at least some of what I encounter -- and share.

Ultimately, we do our best.

So, please share this story, even if you don't read it. Then again, if you made it this far, this story's not about you.