At mediabistro's 10,000 Words, a blog covering the space "where journalism and technology meet", Kevin Loker recently wrote "Retweeting without reading? Yeah, it's happening, and it affects journalism strategy on Twitter". Loker describes research that suggests retweets and click-throughs to a linked article have little correlation, with as much of a sixth of all links receiving more tweets than click-throughs.
Because 10,000 Words writes for journalists, Loker offers three ideas for those in the news business:
- Retweets may not improve traffic for a given article
- Blind retweets may help build a brand for a publication or journalist
- Try to write tweets that encourage click-throughs
I'd add one more piece of advice: consider why people retweet your link without reading it. Perhaps they trust you. Maybe they want to be among the first to spread interesting or topical information. Or maybe the headline is all that they needed. As Loker points out:
"Back in the heyday of newspapers, of course there were people who didn’t read a full article either—instead, they just read the similarly short bit, the headlines. A tweet is a new form headline, and of course there are people who just read its less than 140 characters and go no further. But unlike in the newspaper age, everyone has publishing power, and everybody can pass on an individual “headline,” all on their own."
Of course, people who tweet without reading a linked article aren't counted for site traffic. But as I've posted before, pursuing traffic-driven strategies for online journalism pours old wine into a new bottle. The solution to our paid content problem is more likely to be solved with broader use of content components, not boosted use of a single, longer format.