Stanford computer scientists figure out what makes a successful Reddit post

Predicting the popularity of content on the internet is a hit and miss affair – just ask any social media company that’s been told to “create a viral campaign”. Sadly, it’s difficult to tell what makes content viral, or successful, on the internet. Often it’s just a number of factors that come together at the right time.

Until now, that is. Business Insider reports that a group of computer scientists from Stanford University have spent some time to determine what makes a successful post on Reddit. The open online community, closely resembling a discussion board, has been the driving factor behind successful images and memes. It was discovered that while images are successful on their own merit, their success was often determined by the title under which they were submitted.

Reddit lets users submit content in topics, but when posting a topic headline needs to be chosen. This, it was found, is the determining factor of the content’s success – much like newspaper headlines that grab your eye.

In the report compiled by the Stanford geniuses applied the scientific method to about 17 000 submitted photos across a selection of the most popular subreddits. The observed factors such as what time of day successful posts were made, how many times the content had been submitted previously, and in which community it was submitted.


To prove their theory that the submission title is the determining factor, they submitted 85 images from their database. Each was given a two titles and submitted. One title was deemed to be successful and the other unsuccessful, according to their research. Content with successful titles was three times more popular than the rest.

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