Why we urge readers to share our stories on Facebook

As we move into 2014, many of our readers are wondering why our staff is urging readers to share our stories, first, on Facebook and, then, through other forms of social media they may be using these days. When online magazines were launched, years ago, the goal typically was to have readers visit and “talk amongst themselves” in the Comments section below each article. While we still welcome your comments, the Pew Research Center has just published a very compelling case underlining our current strategy.

Care to get your own free copy?
Visit the Pew site for the full 18-page PDF by researchers Maeve Duggan and Aaron Smith.


LETTING YOU CHOOSE: Any online publication trying to build an audience, these days, knows that the first step is encouraging readers to subscribe. This “opt in” subscription is a vital connection with our core audience. The green “Subscribe” button is at the top of our front page. At ReadTheSpirit, we follow Best Practices as good citizens of the Internet in our subscription system. Our weekly newsletter and daily subscription options are free. You can cancel them at any time. No, the new Pew study did not chart opt-in email services—still, a direct and helpful email link to our readers is Job 1 in our connections with you.

As the Pew team demonstrates—by studying their research data from several different perspectives in the course of this new report—the lion’s share of the social media buzz moves through Facebook.

Just look at the first Pew chart with this story. The Pew researchers point out that other social media websites are developing distinctive communities and should not be dismissed as ways to encourage good, rich conversations with readers. But, they conclude: “Facebook remains the dominant player in the social networking space. Some 71% of online adults are now Facebook users, a slight increase from the 67% of online adults who used Facebok as of late 2012.”

ReadTheSpirit’s seven-year history and our long-standing 10 Principles encourage and celebrate diversity. This commitment is at the core of our latest projects, including our pioneering publishing work with the Michigan State University School of Journalism. Most social media websites divide the American people. Examples: If you are older than your 40s, then you’re left in the dust with Twitter, Pew’s report shows. If you’re a “Rural” American, you’re left out of the Instagram world. LinkedIn is a fairly exclusive realm of upscale college graduates. And, overall, none of these other social media sites truly cuts across the American landscape.

Where is the Common Ground—the Public Square—today? It’s on Facebook. Just look at the demographic breakdown of Facebook as we enter 2014.

Here’s the big reason we encourage sharing on Facebook: Two thirds of Facebook users (and that term “users” essentially means “most Americans,” at this point) are checking their page on a daily basis. That’s amazing! Facebook has replaced the old “water cooler” or “break room” conversation around the office. Facebook is more popular than long-distance telephone calls once were as a way to keep in touch with distant friends. If you read the entire Pew study, you will find that Instagram runs Facebook a close second in “frequency of social media site use,” but that’s only for Americans actually using Instagram. Consider: 6 out of 7 men don’t use Instagram; 99 percent of people 65 and older never touch it; 94 percent of people living in rural areas aren’t on Instagram. Where are all these folks? On Facebook.


We license on our online stories to encourage you to share them. We place social-media sharing buttons on nearly every story we publish to make it even easier. For those readers who prefer to carry an ink-on-paper printed copy to share with friends—we place easy-to-print green buttons at the end of our stories.

At the top of our front page—readthespirit.com—you’ll find a green “Subscribe” button, which starts you on your way to receiving our free weekly newsletter. That Monday newsletter is a personal note from Editor David Crumm, written as each week begins and aimed at sharing the most important new headlines in our online magazine. (Having trouble locating that green button? It’s in the red banner on our front page right above our web site’s convenient Search box.

Those little social media sharing icons are small—but powerful. From left to right, they help you share on Facebook and Twitter. The third icon takes readers to Reddit, which is a powerful website for recommending top stories to a wide audience around the world. It’s true that Reddit is such a small community, overall, that Pew did not even bother to include it in their new roundup of social media. Nevertheless, for those readers who regularly use Reddit—you can do a good deed by recommending our stories in that way. The red-P is used by more women than men, Pew tells us; that’s the Pinterest sharing button. The “g+1” icon goes to Google Plus, another powerful and growing audience of online users. Finally, there is a little envelope-shaped icon for readers who care to email their recommendation to friends.

Nearly every new story on our website has a green “Print Friendly” button at the very end, a device that should make it easy for you to print a good-looking copy of that story. Many of our readers like to share columns with their weekly classes or small groups to spark discussion.

(Originally published at readthespirit.com, an on line magazine covering religion, spirituality, values and interfaith and cross-cultural issues.)

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