Study explains why web browsers are drawn to tabloid gossip

It may seem a statement of the bleedin obvious given the preponderance of celebrity gossip mags, blogs and columns but now the University of Bristol has pinpointed the psychology behind what makes us click in a new study.

In addition to the unsurprising finding that celebrity stories are more popular than those covering politics or economics the survey found that the use of ‘sentimental’ and subjective language is the best way to engage readers... typically associated with the drama of entertainment, crime and the weather.

The findings were drawn from a compilation of the ‘top stories’ and ‘most popular’ feeds from 14 different news sites including the BBC and New York Times, over an 18 month period.

These were used to rank the most, and the least, attractive keywords with ‘sentimentally charged language’ doing the most to foster clicks.

Lead researcher professor Nello Cristianini, said: “We found significant inverse correlations between the appeal to users and the amount of attention devoted to public affairs.

“People are put off by public affairs and attracted by entertainment, crime, and other non-public affairs topics.”

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John Glenday

John Glenday is responsible for compiling The Drum's daily morning bulletin and ensuring that overnight breaking news is covered while you're still brushing your teeth. Can also make a mean cup of tea.

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