Why we put sex and orgy in this story headline

Researchers at the University of Bristol say they studied tens of thousands of news articles to find out what words cause readers to click on a story.

The researchers developed a model of news appeal based on the words contained in an article’s title and text intro, which is what a reader uses when they choose to click on a story, said the university.

The university press release did not say so, but a closer study of the data shows that sex was right up there.

That was the most clickable word from stories at news.com.au, an Australian news site.  The most attractive words for readers of Forbes, the online financial magazine, were, predictably and among others, billionaire and richest.

Unlike A.M. Costa Rica, many online new sources require readers to click on a headline or a brief description to see a full story.

A less intense study here involved Costa Rica Report, the A.M. Costa Rica title that summarizes Spanish-language news stories. The Alexa Web site can track the popularity of the news stories on any given day. So far the big winner is orgy, a word used in a Diario Extra murder story. That word is not usually found in Forbes.

The University of Bristol study used news stories from 14 Web sites, including the BBC.

According to the university, researchers found that there is a significant correlation between the demographic profiles of audiences and their preferences. They also found that more sentimentally charged language being preferred, and to content with public affairs topics, such as finance and politics, being less preferred, it said.

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