Data from the Buzzfeed network has found many fewer page views are coming from email than they used to, as other modes of sharing, like Facebook and Twitter have taken off. Since the beginning of this year, all the sites included in that network, including TMZ and the Daily Mail, have seen drop in email shares, with a big drop-off in May 2012, as the chart below via Buzzfeed shows. We have a theory for why: People are emailing around links less because it takes too much effort. Think about the many steps it takes to compose an email, even from a news site, compared to social sharing it.
Unlike email, mainstream social media platforms are automatically connected to pretty much all of the Internet. Sure, someone with a New York Times subscription is automatically logged in via their email to the paper. But that's not a norm across the whole of the world wide web in the same way it is with Facebook and Twitter. Because of that, social sharing takes one, maybe two clicks. Facebook "liking" something doesn't even involve typing a single word and voile its shared with your entire feed. Email on the other hand, involves, inputting your own email, choosing a recipient, knowing their email off the top of their head, and maybe writing a note. Or, one could copy and paste the link into Gmail and send it that way. Either way, it's effortful.