A new feature from Twitter may change the way people share and discover stories.
The New York Times tested a new feature last week that allows users to click on a highlighted sentence from a story, and tweet it out directly, instead of just tweeting the headline. Readers who see the tweet and click on the accompanying link are brought to the highlighted part of the story, rather than to the beginning of the article.
The idea behind the feature was that while a headline doesn’t always grab you, an enthralling sentence from the middle of a story may do the trick. Times reporter Dave Itzkoff explained to Poynter his method for determining which sentences to highlight: “Just a bit of educated guesswork trying to imagine what readers would be drawn to and what would make the best traveling billboards for the overall story.”
The story that the Times chose — a feature on what it’s like to audition for Saturday Night Live executive producer Lorne Michaels — was tweeted 11 times more frequently than “the average of the top 500 shared Times articles from the last month,” wrote Twitter data editor Simon Rogers in a blog post.
While the experiment lacks a sufficient sample size, Twitter and media outlets hope that in providing users with a way to tweet content outside of a story’s headline, more sharing will occur.
Previously, users could always read a story, then copy and paste an interesting sentence into a tweet Now, the new feature allows publications to identify interesting or quote-worthy material for readers. Twitter referred to the new tweet suggestions as “editorialized tweets.”
The Times told Poynter that the use of editorialized tweets will not carry over to all of its stories, but rather serve as an experiment, as the newspaper prepares for a site redesign next year. Twitter has not yet announced when the feature will be available for other media outlets to use.
The microblogging site has been actively releasing new features that make it easier to share articles. Last week, Twitter announced a Related Headlines update that automatically lists relevant stories alongside tweets. The feature is meant to provide context to tweets by showing users where they can get more information, if interested.