We write it, you read it: the pick of irishtimes.com

Crime, sport, sex and animals reach the top, but talking-point stories have staying power

The article written by Christian Zaschke and translated by Derek Scally topped the Irish Times most read list

The article written by Christian Zaschke and translated by Derek Scally topped the Irish Times most read list


The day I was propositioned on the train will stick in my mind. I received an email from a woman who said her friend, a fellow passenger, would like to meet me. Flattered and slightly confused, I pointed out that I was spoken for, then asked how this woman’s friend had tracked me down. She had seen my Irish Times ID badge, googled my name and found my address on an article I had written.

Shortly afterwards I was brought down to earth when users of an online forum labelled me an idiot, a failed journalist and a young loner on a crusade when I wrote an article criticising the cycling lobby.

It has never been so easy for readers to gain access to journalists: we can be tracked down through a simple web search, and readers are quick to give their views by emailing, commenting or posting on social media. And we can discern the stories they like to read and those they don’t.

On the morning of Monday, November 25th, for example, our readers, voting with their left mouse buttons and touch screens, told us they were mostly interested in rugby. The top five most-read stories on irishtimes.com, for a large part of that day, were about the All Blacks’ defeat of Ireland the day before.

It is common for news sites to publish rolling lists of their most-read stories. Newsrooms also have analytics engines that show how many people are reading a story, in what country they are reading it, whether they found it on Facebook, say, or on our website, and whether they are reading it on a phone, tablet or desktop.

We can tell what stories are popular right now and which are being ignored. At the end of every day, week, month and year, we can see which stories worked and which did not.

So what propels a story into the most-read list? Big news that has just broken will often very quickly become the most popular story on a news site. Whether it is the death of the actor Peter O’Toole, the discovery of a body in a Dublin park, the board of a charity resigning or a coup in Egypt, the element of surprise will often get readers clicking in large numbers.

But news can have a short life, and several features joined news stories on the 2103 list. They include, at number one, the article “Conned: a German view of Ireland”, written by Christian Zaschke for Süddeutsche Zeitung in June and translated by Derek Scally for The Irish Times. It claimed Ireland’s political elite had failed its people.

Fintan O’Toole’s article on corruption in Ireland is at number three. Kate Holmquist’s interview in April with the former prostitute Rachel Moran is at nine, and number 10 is Carl O’Brien’s story of a well-known Dublin homeless man who died in January.

Most Read: Top on irishtimes.com in 2013

1 ’Conned’: A German view of Ireland

2 Sweden riots spread to south of capital

3 Nine things you can do in Ireland that won’t land you in jail

4 Anonymous wealth revealed after data leak

5 Judges choose the 25 best places to holiday in Ireland

6 Social media firms try to block images of Slane sex act

7 Busting some medical myths

8 Foxrock man charged with murder of Elaine O’Hara

9 The myth of the happy hooker

10 “I think in his own way he’s galvanised the community”

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