The Lifespan of a Link - NYTimes
A graph shows the average lifespan of 1,000 popular links on Bit.ly.
Pop quiz. How long do you think a fresh new link lasts online before people stop clicking on it? The answer: on average, just shy of 3 hours. If you ask the same question about a news-related link, the answer is a measly 5 minutes.
According to new research by Bit.ly, the URL shortening service, most links shared online don’t live very long and quickly get lost amid the noise of our digitally distracted universe. The research found that links across all genres, from comedy to news, follow the same pattern, receiving an initial burst of attention, which quickly peaks, and then the link essentially dies.
The research determined a link’s longevity by measuring its half life — the point at which it has received half the clicks it will receive online.
Hilary Mason, Bit.ly’s lead scientist, found that links have different lifespans if they are posted on Facebook and Twitter or sent through e-mail or chat clients. After analyzing 1,000 popular links shared on bit.ly, Ms. Mason discovered that the average half life of a link on Twitter is 2.8 hours. On Facebook it’s 3.2 hours, and for e-mail and messenger services it’s 3.4 hours. This means a link gets an extra 24 minutes of life on Facebook compared to Twitter.
But not all links are created equal, as Ms. Mason notes. Links shared from YouTube hit their half life after 7.4 hours. “As clickers, we remain interested in links on YouTube for a much longer period of time,” Ms. Mason writes.
News has a much shorter life. A recent article by The Washington Post that was shared during the East Coast earthquake quickly lost reader interest after just 5 minutes. This is likely because new links were being shared at such a rapid pace.