Judging a Book by Its Cover: Predicting the Marginal Impact of Title on Reddit Post Popularity


  • Evan Weissburg University of Michigan
  • Arya Kumar University of Michigan
  • Paramveer S. Dhillon University of Michigan




Qualitative and quantitative studies of social media, Subjectivity in textual data; sentiment analysis; polarity/opinion identification and extraction, linguistic analyses of social media behavior, Text categorization; topic recognition; demographic/gender/age identification, Engagement, motivations, incentives, and gamification.


Several factors influence the popularity of content on social media, including the what, when, and who of a post. Of these factors, the what and when of content are easiest to customize in order to maximize viewership and reach. Further, the title of a post (part of the what) is the easiest to tailor, compared to the post's body, which is often fixed. So, in this paper, we assess the impact of a post's title on its popularity while controlling for the time of posting (the when) by proposing an interpretable attention-based model. Our approach achieves state-of-the-art performance on predicting the popularity of posts on multiple online communities of various sizes, topics, and formats while still being parsimonious. Interpretation of our model's attention weights sheds light on the heterogeneous patterns in how the specific words in a post's title shape its popularity across different communities. Our results highlight the power of sentiment alignment, personal storytelling, and even personality politics in propelling content to virality.




How to Cite

Weissburg, E., Kumar, A., & Dhillon, P. S. (2022). Judging a Book by Its Cover: Predicting the Marginal Impact of Title on Reddit Post Popularity. Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media, 16(1), 1098-1108. https://doi.org/10.1609/icwsm.v16i1.19361