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 214 Articles
Jeremy Porter has been passionate about the intersection of public relations and journalism since studying both Public Relations and Journalism at Utica College of Syracuse University in the late 90s. Porter launched Journalistics in 2009 to share his ideas and insights around both professions and how trends and developments in modern day marketing, communications, and technology impact those working in these fields. Porter also values the traditions and history of both professions and regularly shares his perspective in these areas - and related topics geared toward the next generation of journalism and public relations professionals.


  1. 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.)



  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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…

  5. 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).

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

  7. 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! 🙂

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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)

  11. 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.

  12. 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?

  13. 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………….

  14. 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?

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. I find Google Plus very useful for sharing my content as many people are webmaster and they are searching for something new. This also drive traffic to my website and those who love it, share it. 🙂

  18. 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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