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92% of US online adults say that they read and search for content online, but no single method dominates their content discovery, according to survey findings released November 2012 by nRelate. For example, 31% claim that search engines are not their primary method of finding that content, while 51% read and click on content that is pushed to them through email newsletters from brands they use. 48% report being more likely to click on related content after reading an article, meaning that context looms large in their decisions to read or click through.

Data from the “Behavior Shift: Getting Content in Front of Consumers” reveals that US adults spend an average of 7.2 hours per week looking for content, with the younger age groups (18-44) skewing higher. They read between 3 and 4 articles per session and watch between 2 and 3 videos on average.

But what makes them click? A 62% majority looks for traditional news links, as opposed to related images, videos or blog posts; in short, they are looking to read. (That aside, 39% report being more likely to click on an article with a related image.) Once they finish an article, they are more likely to click on a link to another article (34%) than to a video (15%).

Quality Judged Primarily By Reputation

The quality of content is another factor, and consumers judge quality and trustworthiness in a variety of ways. The primary attribute of quality content for consumers is that it comes from a source already known in the offline world (60%). Following that, inclusion of images (24%), author image and byline (23%), and/or embedded video (11%) also count, but are less influential.

Interestingly, social circles don’t show up as a very important content discovery tool. Some three-quarters of respondents say they do not get most content recommendations from friends or social networks. And while searching online for content, 48% are most likely to click on search results and 28% report clicking on links at the bottom of an article they’ve read. Just 8% click on links they find on Facebook.

Content Sharing Mostly Happens Via Copy-And-Paste

If publishers counted on social media share buttons for viral reach of their content, they are likely disappointed. Just-released findings from Tynt reveal that copy-and-paste accounts for 82% of all content (text, images, and URLs) sharing, 4.5x more than share buttons. That’s not to say that social media doesn’t play a role in the sharing process: instead, the most common copy-and-paste behavior sees users highlighting text or images and then copying and pasting that content into emails, blogs, and social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.

The study finds that of 4.8 million copies per month from large and premium publishers, 3.9 million (81.5%) lead to searches and shares via email, blogs, and social media, resulting in 1.1 million incremental page views. So publishers achieve the results they want, but readers select a variety of tools to use.

About The Data: The nRelate study was conducted online within the US between October 3-5, 2012 among 2,512 adults aged 18+, of which 2,377 were identified as online content readers by Harris Interactive via its QuickQuery omnibus product.

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