The list of most-read stories of 2014 on irishtimes.com tells us a little about what our readers like to consume, but it tells us more about media, social media and their global nature.
The list includes a viral story about a singing priest, a breaking-news report on the death of a celebrity, a report about the winner of an art competition, and an article that cut to the heart of a serious social issue of national and international interest.
The two at the top of the list could not sit in greater contrast.
Patrick Madden's piece "Hallelujah! Meath priest becomes YouTube sensation", about the rendition of the Leonard Cohen's classic by Fr Ray Kelly at a wedding in April, came in at number one, after the article (and embedded video) went viral thanks to thousands of shares on Facebook and Twitter. It was an entertaining story, and a curiosity, but governments would not fall because of it.
The second-most-read story of 2014 on irishtimes.com concerned what happened in at a mother-and-baby home in Tuam, Co Galway, where hundreds of children died between 1925 and 1961. The issue of how both lay people and clergy had treated Ireland's most vulnerable citizens became the subject of a national debate and made headlines around the world.
Rosita Boland’s calm, analytical piece “Tuam mother and baby home: the trouble with the septic tank story”, in June, became central to that debate, and it was widely shared during the summer. The article also attracted more than 600 reader comments.
The death of Peaches Geldof on April 7th followed closely in third place, demonstrating the combined obsessions of celebrity and tragedy.
Perhaps the biggest story of 2014 – the issue of water charges – does not feature in our top 10, probably because of the volume of stories written on the subject during 2014. The number of people who read a story about water charges on Irish Times digital platforms in 2014 puts it near the top of the list.
Some of the biggest Irish Times scoops, although often heavily consumed, did not make the top 10. These included the "Luxleaks" story on tax avoidance by big companies via Luxembourg; Cliff Taylor's exclusive report on the details of a letter sent by Jean-Claude Trichet of the ECB to Brian Lenihan, as minister for finance, in 2010; Kitty Holland and Ruadhán Mac Cormaic's interview in August with "Ms Y"; Martin Wall's story in November on a secret dossier alleging tax evasion by senior politicians; and Olivia Kelly's exclusive that a State-funded senior citizens' housing complex in Dublin was empty.
On the other hand, the singing priest, a bizarre interview on American TV with the IDA chief executive, Martin Shanahan, and a report on the whereabouts of Kim Jong-un do make this list.
So what's happening? The mix and variety of the list shows that stories float to the top of the charts when they generate debate or controversy, as with Rosita Boland's report from Tuam; when they go viral on Facebook or Twitter, as happened with the singing-priest story; or when they are referenced by Google News, which is why the Kim Jong-un story was so widely read.
Referrals from social media, including Facebook and Twitter, in January accounted for 16 per cent of our digital-readership visits. By November more than 20 per cent came to The Irish Times via these networks.
The numbers of readers accessing our website from mobile phones increased rapidly, too, from 28 per cent in January to more than 35 per cent in November. Desktop readers declined to just over 50 per cent, and tablet users remained consistent, at about 13 per cent.
The ones that clicked: Our 10 most-read articles
1 Hallelujah! Meath priest becomes YouTube sensation
2 Tuam mother and baby home: the trouble with the septic tank story
3 Peaches Geldof dies at the age of 25
4 Ireland closest to Islamic economic teachings
5 Scorpion: How an Irish genius saved the world
6 Ireland's IDA boss faces bizarre CNBC interview
7 Pencil portrait wins Texaco art prize for Mayo teenager
8 Dutch ban display of Isis flag in advance Amsterdam march
9 Garth Brooks 'no longer feels welcome in Ireland'
10 Mystery of Kim Jong Un's absence 'solved' by South Korea
Patrick Logue is Home Page Editor