The next time you bemoan email, think about how you’re sharing information.  The New York Times Customer Insight and Advertising Groups, in an attempt to help marketers better understand how its readers share information found that, despite a plethora of social sharing tools, email is still the most popular sharing tool.

Email Rules Content Sharing

The "Psychology of Sharing" serves as a comprehensive multiphase research study, conducted by The New York Times in collaboration with Latitude Research. The findings are based on two qualitative research phases and a quantitative online survey of more than 2,500 medium-to-heavy online content sharers and was presented at ANA’s Digital & Social Media Conference.

While we don’t like to point fingers, it seems that those who have avoided joining social media communities, such as Twitter or Facebook, are the culprits (at least they’re reading online, right?). Even though email seems to account for most of the content sharing across the web, it does seem that sharing is caring.

The study shows that:

  • According to 85% of respondents, reading other peoples' responses helps them understand and process information and events.
  • 73% said they process information more deeply, thoroughly and thoughtfully when they share it.

Readers seem to view email as more secure and more personal than social media. An email message can still facilitate conversations, but in a more private, one-on-one environment, which readers prefer more than social media’s amplified network.

Sharing Motivations, Identities

The study also highlights the type of content being shared and the demographic most likely to share it. The identification of six sharing personas illustrates the emotional motivations, desired presentation of self, role of sharing in their life and the value of being first to share.

  • altruists -- mostly female, attached to causes
  • careerists -- focused on job-related information
  • hipsters -- younger altruists and careerists
  • boomerangs -- people who share simply to stir up controversy
  • connectors -- related to careerists
  • selectives -- related to altruists

Such results provide an interesting insight that may help prioritize the Timescontent strategy, their advertisers and anyone else who wants to capitalize on catering to these specific personas.  Knowing how your readers influence your content, not only by sharing it with others but in relation to how it relates to them personally, may help newspapers realign themselves with readers.