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Posts tagged with ‘science’
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What does it mean to be a celebrity on the internet?

It’s easy to claim that celebrities are a little different than the rest of us - including how they are covered on the internet.

In the past, we’ve measured the way bitly links perform over time and discovered that the majority of bitly links follow a pattern. In this pattern, the number of clicks on a bitly link quickly increases until it reaches its peak and then that number drops exponentially over a certain time frame. While analyzing our Story API, our science intern Tobias noticed something different - although we expected them to behave in the same way, there were certain ‘stories’ that followed their own pattern and continuously attracted attention.

These are stories revolving around a celebrity.

bitly celebrities, taylor swift, obama, ronaldo

What is a story?

We cluster popular content (based on keywords pulled from the content) to create what we call ‘stories.’ Stories are generated by commonalities - in this case, we categorized stories by links that share the same keyword.

We recorded the top 500 stories from January 2013-July 2013 that consistently generated more attention than the average story. The majority of the list included stories around commonly used words; stories about ‘women,’ ‘New York City’ and ‘Instagram’ all attracted a high level of attention.

We noticed this list also included a handful of public figures. These celebrities are the most talked about people on Bitly from January-July of this year.

What does it take to be a celebrity?

The top stories list is constantly changing. This list could change drastically by season (baseball players are talked about more in September than February), by recent or upcoming events (Hollywood actors might make the list around award season or the release of a new movie), or by day, based on breaking news.

Factors like location and language can also affect a person’s chances of making it into the most popular 500 stories at any given time. Political figures well-known in their own country might not have the staying power outside of it, while certain pop stars might transcend location or language barriers.

Taking this into account, being in the top 500 clicked stories on Bitly at all - despite location, language or season - would be an achievement. This small group of people managed to achieve more than that; they consistently attracted more attention than the average story on bitly not just for a day or two, but for nearly six months.

What gives the members of this list staying power? It’s those with the greatest media presence - they’re frequently recognized and talked about, whether it is for their talent, their title, their infamy, or a mixture of the three.

Who is a celebrity?

We found President Obama is the most talked about person in the Bitlyverse. This means that out of the top 500 stories from January-June 2013, a story about ‘Obama’ attracts more attention on Bitly than any other public figure.  

What are some other stories that attracted more attention than average? Stories about ‘Twitter,’ ‘Manchester United’ and ‘Google’ also performed higher than average every day throughout the time period.

Here are some more of the top figures who maintain a constant news presence - they are the most talked about people on Bitly for 2013 so far.

#1. Obama

#2. Justin Bieber

#3. Rihanna

#4. Mourinho

#5. One Direction

#6. Kardashian

#7. Beyonce

#8. Taylor Swift

#9. Ronaldo

#10. Neymar

#11. Selena Gomez

#12. Chris Brown

#13. Miley Cyrus

#14. Harry Styles

#15. Jay-Z

There are some interesting initial observations we noticed after briefly looking at this list. The overwhelming majority of the list are young, American pop stars. These people attract a considerable amount of attention because they live their lives in the public eye - including information about their relationships. Many of these people have publicly revealed they have been or are in relationships - Jay-Z and Beyonce, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, etc. These relationships could amplify the media presence of the celebrities on this list, who already attract a considerable amount of attention on their own.

Although the majority of the people on the list are American, a few big names in soccer popped up; current Chelsea manager José Mourinho, Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo and FC Barcelona forward Neymar da Silva Santos Júnior. With soccer being the most popular international sport, this was a nice representation of our international community and a reminder that Bitly is heavily used outside of the United States. 

This post brought to you by the bitly science team! Questions or comments? Email us.

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You just shared a link. How long will people pay attention?

How long is a link “alive” before people stop caring? Does it matter what kind of content it is, or where you shared it? At bitly we see a lot of links, and while every link is special, we’re learning a few general principles that we can share.

Let’s take a look at one particular story - Baby otter befriended by orphaned kittens - which was first shared by StylistMagazine on Facebook on Tuesday at 7:12am.  If we plot clicks over time for this link, we see:

Rate of clicks per 10 minutes on “Baby otter befriended by orphaned kittens

We can evaluate the persistence of the link by calculating what we’re calling the half life: the amount of time at which this link will receive half of the clicks it will ever receive after it’s reached its peak. For this link the half life was 70 minutes, which captures all the clicks between the grey lines on the graph above.

Let’s look at a second link - East Coast earthquake: 5.8 magnitude epicenter hits Virginia - , this one first shared by the Washington Post on Twitter.

Rate of clicks per minute on “East Coast earthquake: 5.8 magnitude epicenter hits Virginia

While the exact details of the traffic are a little different, and the scale of the traffic to this link is much larger, we see essentially the same pattern: a fast rise, and a more relaxed drop-off. Noticeably though this link a half life of only 5 minutes: after 5 minutes this link had seen half of the clicks it would ever see.

This link is associated with a very timely event (an earthquake on the US East Coast) as opposed to the previous link (pictures of otters and kittens are clearly interesting all the time). We think that this difference in content drives the difference in dynamics of these two links. However, one alternative theory that comes up again and again is that the dynamics of the link traffic depend on where the link is posted: do links posted on facebook last longer than they do on twitter?

So we looked at the half life of 1,000 popular bitly links and the results were surprisingly similar. The mean half life of a link on twitter is 2.8 hours, on facebook it’s 3.2 hours and via ‘direct’ sources (like email or IM clients) it’s 3.4 hours. So you can expect, on average, an extra 24 minutes of attention if you post on facebook than if you post on twitter.

Distribution of half-lifes over four different referrer types. Facebook, twitter and direct link (links shared via email, instant messengers etc.) half lifes follow a strikingly similar distribution.

Not all social sites follow this pattern. The surprise in the graph above is links that originate from youtube: these links have a half life of 7.4 hours! As clickers, we remain interested in links on youtube for a much longer period of time. You can see this dramatic difference between youtube and the other platforms for sharing links in the image above.

The graph shows the distribution of half lifes for each referrer. So we’d expect to see link half lifes of less than 20K seconds (5.5 hours) for facebook, twitter and links shared directly, and we’d be very surprised to see any link maintain significant traffic for a lot longer than 60K seconds (16 hours). But for youtube, we’d be a little surprised to see half lifes of less than 5 hours!

In general, the half life of a bitly link is about 3 hours, unless you publish your links on youtube, where you can expect about 7 hours worth of attention. Many links last a lot less than 2 hours; other more sticky links last longer than 11 hours over all the referrers. This leads us to believe that the lifespan of your link is connected more to what content it points to than on where you post it: on the social web it’s all about what you share, not where you share it!

This post brought to you by the bitly science team! Questions or comments? Email us.