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What Are You Really Sharing?


"People Are Sharing More News Than Ever On Facebook" — except it's not actually news.

To Facebook users, the biggest stories seem to be themselves.

NewsWhip, the social media data analytics company, released a report Wednesday breaking down what stories people interact with on Facebook, and how they're interacting with them.

The title of the report, "People Are Sharing More News Than Ever On Facebook," seems to speak to concerns, frequently raised of late, that in the age of social media the big stories are all inane memes and that serious journalism is getting ignored by click-happy audiences.

Is NewsWhip's report evidence that people are actually sharing news?

Not quite.

People are sharing more content on Facebook, with likes, shares and comments — collectively known as "engagements" or "interactions" — for English-language news content skyrocketing from a little more than 393 million in January to nearly 483 million in April.

Image via NewsWhip Image via NewsWhip

But as the NewsWhip report quietly notes, not all of that "news content" is really news.

In fact, while content related to music or health attracted lots of interactions, news content that was actually, you know, "news" was near the end of the interaction-getting list, beaten to the bottom only by lifestyle and business content.

Image via NewsWhip Image via NewsWhip

Many of 2014's biggest stories on Facebook so far are not hard news (not that there's any shortage of hard news this year, with Iraq's meltdown, the still-developing IRS scandal and landmark legal decisions seemingly every week), but are rather quiz results or nostalgia pieces.

Take BuzzFeed, a site widely-known for quizzes and cat videos but which produces a substantial amount of solid, longform reporting on politics, legal battles and world events.

Image via NewsWhip Image via NewsWhip

None of those longform stories were among BuzzFeed's top three stories so far this year; that distinction went to a trio of quizzes that seem to mix narcissism and nostalgia: "What State Do You Actually Belong In?," "What Career Should You Actually Have?" and "Which Classic Rock Band Are You?"

BusinessInsider was twice as successful as Forbes in delivering business content on Facebook — except none of BusinessInsider's top three stories were actually about business.

Image via NewsWhip Image via NewsWhip

BusinessInsider readers were most likely to interact with one emotional (albeit newsy) story about a Medal of Honor recipient, a piece about an Atlanta traffic jam and "31 Phrases That Only People In The Military Will Understand" — more self-reflection.

So while Facebook's NewsFeed might be relaying more and more content, it remains to be seen whether that content will become more informative or if, as current trends seem to indicate, it will be largely quiz results and pictures.

Follow Zach Noble (@thezachnoble) on Twitter

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