Stephen Baker

The Numerati
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When you cut and paste, 33across is watching

January 5, 2013Hop Skip Go

I'm browsing my Facebook news feed on a Saturday morning, and I see that one of my old BusinessWeek colleagues has linked to an article claiming that journalism is among the top 10 occupations for attracting psychopaths. Now you might think that I'd immediately "like" this fascinating article, and share it with all of my friends. But perhaps I have mixed feelings about it and only want to show it to a few. So I cut and paste the URL and plunk it into an email and send it.

This behavior is rampant. An advertising data company, 33Across, has found that 82% of sharing online is cut and pasted. Most people bypass the share buttons on publishers' Web sites. They often take too much time. Sometimes they require you to actually type in an email address (which for me is a dealbreaker). And they often don't let you add your own thoughts or annotations.

Now if you think about online marketers, as 33Across does, they're trying every day to figure out what people are interested in and, more specifically, which advertisements they'd be most likely to click. With social networks, they exploring treasure troves of human behavior and relationships. And yet if they rely on data from share buttons, they miss out on most of it.

So they dig further. They look at the cutting and pasting, and the sections of stories we highlight, and they learn more about us. This type of analysis, according to 33Across CEO Eric Wheeler, helps clients such as eBay and Macy's find the people statistically most likely to be the "next customers." Cutting and pasting is rampant on cooking sites. People love to share recipes. And the recipes they share say something about them. What's more, it helps publishers, e-commerce sites and social networks figure out which features and articles are the most engaging--and how to make more money from their traffic.

It's also very likely that social networks generate more traffic, and influence, than the standard count of "likes" and "retweets" would indicate. On some sites, according to Greg Levitt, general manager for publishing solutions at 33Across,  as much as 30% of the visits come from Facebook and Twitter.


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