Facebook just published a list of the most-shared U.S. news stories of 2011 and right behind understandable links to Japan earthquake coverage and parenting advice is the now notorious story about people's zodiac signs changing. Not only did CNN's article clarifying that your star sign does not actually change due to the earth's wobble (and earned an eye-popping 293K Likes), a Huffington Post slideshow (302K Likes*) featuring more details about a mysterious 13th Zodiac sign Ophiucus also made the top ten. As an enthusiastic astrology professional Matthew Currie explained to us at the time, neither of these stories were actually news, but they were most certainly traffic-driving machines.
Doing a redux of the stories' phenomenal success and revisiting our conversation with Currie shows not only the incredibly enduring popularity of astrology but also teaches us a little bit about the formula for viral succes on the web. Main takeaway: People love to argue and complain on Facebook.
To jog your memory a little bit, the story of the changing Zodiac sign started with an easily misinterpreted story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Local astronomy instructor Parke Kunkle (yes, that's his real name) suggested to the paper that the Earth's wobble meant that the Zodiac calendar everyone's been using since at least the disco-fabulous astrology explosion in the 1970s was about a month off. And then millions of people thought they'd have to start reading a different horoscope and become new people. And what about all those tattoos of now obsolete zodiac symbols? Well, they evidently took to Facebook by the millions to share the news and talk about it. It was all bunk, astrologers and astronomers alike said. But the fact the two groups sort of united in clarifying the story was evidently a big deal, we were told, as the two groups really don't get along or agree on anything. Ever.