The NY Times boasts around 50 million unique visitors each month, so when a story reaches the list of top ten most-emailed articles, it is assumed to have struck a nerve with America at large.
But according to Thomas Weber, who covers tech for The Daily Beast, it doesn’t take much to crack the NY Times most emailed list and propel an article to a coveted top spot.
Weber recruited a team of volunteers to email out a three week old story about cuniform tablets, “An Exhibition That Gets to the (Square) Root of Sumerian Math,” making the relatively safe assumption that a surge of interested readers from Sumeria, or elsewhere wouldn’t skew the results of his test.
36 hours and 1,270 emails later, the story peaked at number three on the most emailed list, which works on a 24 hour moving average.
Weber boasted that it took only a tiny fraction of the Times’ overall readership to score a prominent position on the most emailed list. But if anything, his story showed how hard it really is to game the NYT.
The reason most-emailed is an interesting metric is because it represents a high level of engagement on the part of the reader. It requires a NY Times Login, extra clicks, and a reader who is willing to risk social capital by sharing with others.
As Weber admits, “The most-emailed list of virtually every other news site in the world surely requires a small fraction of that number, and thus would be far easier to game. That certainly includes The Daily Beast, which is one reason this site’s homepage features the most-viewed stories more prominently than the most-emailed.”
bpopper [at] observer.com | @adrjeffries