Apparently, old stories are being rediscovered as they go viral for the first time…
Throughout this week, most or all of the “most shared” and, by extension, “most viewed” stories on Independent.co.uk have been from the late 1990s. Most are oddball stories with eye-catching headlines, including “Sean, 12, is the youngest father” (January 1998), “Eton pupil died in ‘fainting game’” (March 1999) and “Scotland’s ugliest woman honoured”(May 1999).The new prominence given to “most shared” is driving the “most read”, and the recent redesign of independent.co.uk is a complicating factor. This is just a short sample of data. But there are indications that the same “Facebook effect” is happening at other sites, too: the Guardian has seen a similar phenomenon, although older stories are less prominent in the most-read column, perhaps because it has a much larger online readership.
The Independent has not made any special effort to promote its archive content and its team are somewhat mystified as to what originally surfaced these older stories. One theory is that they have arrived via search but been absorbed into Facebook through the seamless sharing, then passed around through a combination of sensationalist headlines and absence of a timestamp to indicate their age.
But is this so new? I remember the man marries goat in South Sudan story from 2006. The story surfaced again on online news sites a year later, propelled by the fact it continued to rank as one of the BBC’s most-read stories. Bloggers and news editors assumed it was new. Such was the story’s longevity that the BBC suspected there may have been a co-ordinated campaign to keep it in the news.