The New York Times' "most emailed" list is an Internet icon, a coveted barometer of the most clickable stories on the world's biggest news site. It can also be manipulated by just a few hundred people, as writer Thomas E. Weber discovered.
Weber wrote about his experiment in the Daily Beast. He started by asking some friends to pick an obscure article in the science section of the Times and email it to one or more friends. After 48 people sent the article to 135 friends, it climbed to #6 in the section's most e-mailed list.
After tinkering with his strategy and analyzing the way that the list works, Weber tried again, asking a wider selection of people to email a nearly month-old story about an exhibition on ancient tablets to friends. 1,270 people sent the story out, and it promptly showed up at #3 on the overall most emailed list. Given the tens of millions of people who use the Times site every month, it is surprising that, as Weber calculates, "it takes only one out of every 25,000 emailing a particular story to secure it a spot, at least for a day, in the hallowed most-emailed list."
To find out exactly how Weber gamed the list -- and what the Times told him about how it works -- read the full story at the Daily Beast.