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A Look at How People Share Content on the Web

We all know it’s good to share, right? Silicon Alley Insider recently shared some information with us on How People Share Content on the Web. The article took a look at some recent data released by AddToAny, a company that develops widgets that enable users to share content across various social media and other Web communication channels. It should come as no surprise that Facebook (24%), email (11.1%), and Twitter (10.8%) are among the most popular methods for sharing content on the Web today. This is significant information for any Web publisher or other organization that seeks to provide content for its users to share across the Web.

I think this information continues to support the argument that organizations need to open up more of their content for users. As you shift from free to paid content business models, you reduce the potential for information to be shared across all these channels. It’s clear that we’re in a sharing economy today when it comes to information. Unlike a child that’s overly protective of his or her toys, it appears that most of us grown ups are comfortable with sharing. If you take a closer look at the data from AddToAny, you’ll also see that social bookmarking and user-generated news sites like Delicious, Digg, StumbleUpon and Reddit are also among the top sources for sharing information online. If you’re not using a widget like AddToAny or Sociable (which we use on Journalistics), you could be missing a huge opportunity to share your content with a much larger audience.Will Sullivan recently wrote a great post on this topic for Poynter Online that discussed this topic in greater detail. In his article, Will takes a look at information provided by search engine marketing guru Danny Sullivan (no relation), suggesting that Twitter traffic numbers can be under reported by analytics tools like Google Analytics. I’ve found this to be true with this blog. I regularly track the number of clicks and “retweets” generated from posts I share through Twitter. In the case of clicks, I find the trackable URL shortening services I use (Tr.im and Bit.ly) often report more referrals than Google Analytics; often at a ratio of 3:1. I think this is important to point out, since Twitter can be a huge source of referrals to your Web content. In the case of this blog, Twitter is consistently a top referral source, despite information being under reported.

Back to the point of free versus paid content. Is it possible for users to share links to your premium content? Yes. Will it result in more people paying for subscriptions to your content? I have no doubt. However, you’ll reach a much larger audience if you make your content free for sharing. As a result, you’ll continually grow your audience. That much larger audience creates more opportunities for generating revenue than subscriptions alone. There are countless examples of this approach working for publishers of Web content. In my case, I know it’s true. We continually see an increase of more than 100% month-over-month in readers of our Web content. If I started to charge for content, I have no doubt our audience would atrophy and people would stop sharing our content. A larger audience has far more value than a smaller paid subscriber audience.

As a consumer of online content, I am also an active sharer of information I find interesting. I am 10 times more likely to share content I know my audience can easily access and share without a subscription. It’s the classic pay-it-forward model. When I find great information on a subscription site, I don’t share it. It’s too much of a burden on my audience to jump through hoops to read the article. I realize organizations need to find new business models that will help them achieve sustainability, I just can’t help but think paid content models will lose big in this sharing economy we’re in today.

How are you making it easier for people to share your content today? Do you think sharing and paid subscriptions can coexist? And while you’re at it, why not share this post?

About Jeremy Porter

Jeremy Porter is co-founder and editor of Journalistics, a lively blog about public relations and journalism topics.

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  • http://Word-Of-Mouth-Advertising.com Phil Tanny

    How are we making it easier for people to share our content today? Good question!

    It took me 15 years of wishing visitors would tell their friends about my sites, to
    realize I could and should be helping readers to help me. It’s amazing how obvious
    things can be, once we finally see them.

    A friend and I finally got serious about word of mouth and coded up a tool to address the challenge (see link).

    Jeremy, tried to contact you with a partnership proposal in this regard. Mails are bouncing back. If you’d like to get acquainted, would welcome a contact. (Nothing for sale.)

    Best,

    Phil

  • http://www.hiddensoy.com Dianne

    In answer to your question: Do you think sharing and paid subscriptions can coexist?

    People are not going to pay for a subscription for content they can get for free.
    You have to be able to offer something unique with leverage that subscribers would be willing to pay for. It could be audios or videos added for paid subscribers only, or a CD mailed with a printed transcipt, and a way for members to communicate with each other through your discussion board for any Q&A’s online. All this adds value to the benefits you offer.

  • http://jamieFavreau.wordpress.com Jamie Favreau

    I use the shareaholic button and I find it easier to do so on various bookmarking sites. I agree, when it comes to paid content, it gets frustrating. I don’t want to subscribe yet! I would when I have the money! But the organization would get in the spotlight more if they let everyone share.

  • http://www.ngn.nl Melle Gloerich

    Funny, I don’t see Google Reader Shared Items in the chart. It’s one of the most important ways for me to share information. Sure, I push it via Twitter and a Google Reader widget on my site but Google Reader is the starting point. (http://www.google.com/reader/shared/ngngroen and http://www.google.com/reader/shared/mgloerich ).

  • http://www.cowangroup.co.uk Toby

    Because you can’t stop people sharing, industries such as music, TV and film are going to have to find solutions to stop them going out of business. The entertainment industries are slowly dieing because no-one has found a solution to the problems caused through content sharing. Something needs to be done and I think it’s time to fix it before it’s too late…

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  • http://realtaiji.com S.Smith

    Great graph keeps it real for me. I use Facebook, email, and Twitter to talk about Taijiquan. I consider using other social networks, but these are the ones right now.

    …until entertainment industries purchase them and make them into movie networks (like YouTube).

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  • Mike Hippy

    People should be thanking me for sending them so much email. Without my somewhat opt-in emails, that chart would look a lot different.

  • http://hubpages.com/profile/dame+scribe Gin

    I don’t understand the need to require subscription when advertisers still offer to pay their way and being a popular site will have a large audience. As that saying goes, one must adapt to survive . Incentives are a good way to attract and retain a audience. Great graph! :)

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    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003407045349 Vineeth

      writing of this post). If you’re pruning your RSS raederheading into 2011, check out this post.8. The Elements of Style: Twitter Edition – anything attachedto this classic is popular. If you love The Elements of Style, and you

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  • http://binbrain.com bobit

    seems lots ppl coming into facebook,
    in my site too, most ref came from facebook

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  • http://webstandard.kulando.de Webstandard-Blog

    Facebook 24%! Respect, but my favorite web-app is still twitter ;o)

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  • http://www.zagoumenov.com Online marketing Calgary

    Jeremy, thanks a bunch for sharing! These are awesome stats! This makes a strong case for some of my clients to start incorporating sharing functionality of their sites. Thanks again!

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  • http://versumo.com.pl centrum handlowe

    I really enjoy this blog. It was extremely informative as well as useful. I will come back to follow on upcoming articles.

  • http://versumo.com.pl centrum handlowe

    My English language is not so swet butI think I understand all sentence. Tanks you so much for that magnificent blog post. I truly enjoy reading it. I think you are a perfect author. At this moment added your blog to my favorites and will coming again to ur site. Keep up that wonderful work. I need to see more soon.

  • http://www.seo-searchengineoptimization-seo.com/ SEO Bob

    Case and Point would be the dating website plentyoffish, I don’t know if it is still the case but the owner was raking in over 100 grand a month from the ads on the site. The service is free and this pulls in the traffic.

  • http://internetmarketingservices.nu Chris Miller

    I’m a big fan of Addthis, I use it on all my sites. Lots of options for customizing, loads quick, reliable, and no unwanted mess (though they do have the bars and other semi-spammy looking widgets if you so desire – not bad, just not my thing)

  • http://www.naturehills.com/ trees

    Great article. Face book is going to even bigger from here. Twitter has great potential as far as the text is concerned. And will surpass all in terms of sharing real time text.

  • http://www.playstationmovebundle.info Paul T

    Amazes me the share that Facebook has. Sometimes it just seems like one big gossip site and then at other times it can be shared for business. Wonder where it will be come a few years from now?

  • http://www.thepostmodern.net the postmodern

    I think facebook is the most popular social network. This information displays the most successful ways to our contents on the web. In addition to that blogging web sites are also useful.

  • http://librada.datingservicechristian.org/ the history of the dreams

    I think it will be a good census report of the people sharing their content in internet. By analysing this report,peoples are using the social network application “facebook” mostly for sharing their contents.

  • http://www.clampondesklamps.com/ desk lamp

    I use the shareaholic button and I find it easier to do so on various bookmarking sites. I agree, when it comes to paid content, it gets frustrating.

  • http://www.augustusrey.net/ augustus rey

    I use the shareaholic button and I find it easier to do so on various bookmarking sites. I agree, when it comes to paid content, it gets frustrating. I don’t want to subscribe yet! I would when I have the money! But the organization would get in the spotlight more if they let everyone share…….thats al………….

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  • http://www.alphie.info Randy L

    Do you think with the continuing economic crisis that social networking as it relates to the work industry might start to trump some of these Facebook/Twitter type of sites?

  • http://www.jsawickiphotography.com/ jsa wicki photography

    I use the shareaholic button and I find it easier to do so on various bookmarking sites.

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  • http://creativesb.blogspot.com SEO Freelance India

    This is really a good stuff, with this I can target my online marketing strategies

  • http://www.young-blogger.com/ youngblogger

    It was extremely informative as well as useful. I will come back to follow on upcoming articles.I agree that this site is better than other, especially when it comes to quality.

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    I find shareaholic much easier in sharing things on social media websites.

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    Great web site! I am realy happy stumbling upon it!

  • http://www.warrenlondon.com Eric

    this is good stuff

  • http://www.saseantic.com Sase Antic

    Thanks for the info on sharing content @ the web!

  • http://www.meganandstefan.com Stefan Petersen

    Great visuals. I had no idea FB would take that kind of marketshare.

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  • http://www.entwiningwords.wordpress.com Pallavi

    This data only shows that social networking sites and social bookmarking sites play an important role in helping websites/blog share and promote their content/service/product online. However the success of such methods depend highly on website/blog owners. If they have a good number of contacts who will like, comment and share, then these platforms can work wonders or else it is difficult.