My Wharton colleagues Jonah Berger and Katherine Milkman have an intriguing new paper out that analyzes what it takes for an article to make the New York Times‘s most emailed list. Their answer?

awe-inspiring articles are more likely to be among the newspaper’s most e-mailed stories

John Tierney wrote about these findings in yesterday’s Times, noting that this finding is at odds with the strategy he would recommend:

write an article headlined: “How Your Pet’s Diet Threatens Your Marriage, and Why It’s Bush’s Fault.”


Well, who’s right? It turns out that that readers email articles about which articles readers email. This morning’s list shows Tierney’s column on the Berger-Milkman results at number two.

(Oh, and have you ever tried Googling the word “recursion”? Click on the “did you mean” link, and you’ll have a complete definition.)


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  1. JK says:

    This article pretty much sums it up:

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  2. Kevin says:

    That Google easter egg is amazing!

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  3. jamie says:

    I must have clicked that link 12 times before i got it.

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  4. Garvit Sah says:

    The result of the research is what one would expect from common sense as people in general like to tell their friends about the unbelievable and the awe-inspiring.

    And recursion on google is really good.

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  5. Chris says:

    In the mid-1980s, a former UPI reporter named Arnold Sawislak wrote about a tabloid newspaper whose deranged publisher tried to manufacture events to allow him to use this ultimate tabloid headline:

    Dwarf Rapes Nun, Flees in UFO

    That’s also the name of the book, which was funny in a deeply tasteless way.

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  6. Robyn says:

    dear chris;

    No so funny, but o so true. But as I just learned from a really, really, really good night’s sleep and as you will soon too. “There is no accounting for taste.”

    See ya.

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