Almost from the day it launched in March 2012, the media company Upworthy began conducting experiments, testing which headlines and photos on their stories people responded to best. The experiments worked. A year after its launch, Upworthy was the fastest-growing media company in the world, and articles from its site were shared more frequently on Facebook than all other U.S. mainstream media combined.
Now, thanks to Cornell researchers and their colleagues, a dataset of thousands of those experiments is publicly available, providing insight into fields like political science, communication, psychology, marketing, organizational behavior, statistics, computer science and education. The dataset and its significance were presented in the study “The Upworthy Research Archive, a time series of 32,487 experiments in U.S. media,” published August 2 in Nature Scientific Data.
The new archive can help answer questions about the digital behavior of readers – like how they respond to headlines – and content producers – such as how organizations make decisions, said Kevin Munger, assistant professor of political science at Penn State and co-lead researcher of the study.
“We need to dramatically increase the scale of social scientific output; the easiest way to do that, I believe, is to look for these ‘knowledge windfalls,’ where we can publicize the most knowledge at the lowest cost,” Munger said. “Collaboration with private companies has downsides, many of which are well publicized, but it also enables these knowledge windfalls. We hope that other companies follow the lead of Good Media/Upworthy and realize that they can make a significant contribution at very little cost.”
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