The New York Times published a short article called, "The Stories That Held You the Longest in 2015." Instead of counting clicks, they looked at which stories on the NYTimes website had received the longest "total combined time readers spent looking at them" and released a list of the top 50 stories.
The article's authors, Ari Isaacman Astles, Samarth Bhaskar and Danny DeBelius, note that some themes are more common among the most read articles. "You can see the big themes of the last year, like race, terrorism and technology..." they write.
They also note the popularity of the Modern Love column, "Which people have spent close to 900,000 hours reading. That's equal to roughly 100 years."
As content creators, what can we learn from what is popular on NYTimes.com?
This article is actually a quiz that was published after a Modern Love essay mentioned it.
"In Mandy Len Catron's Modern Love essay, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This," she refers to a study by the psychologist Arthur Aron (and others) that explores whether intimacy between two strangers can be accelerated by having them ask each other a specific series of personal questions," writes Daniel Jones, the editor of the Modern Love column. "The 36 questions in the study are broken up into three sets, with each set intended to be more probing than the previous one."
"No. 37: Big Wedding or Small?" is comprised of those 36 questions. I think it is telling that this is interactive content. You don't just read it. You read it with a partner and you ask your partner the questions.
When the original Modern Love essay, "To Fall in Love With Anyone, Do This," was published last January, I remember friends of mine went looking for the questions and spent hours with their romantic partners answering them and starting into each other's eyes. The strength of this article is also in the needs that it addresses: How do we can we know each other more deeply? How can we love each other more?
This is an article about how an offhand but racially charged tweet caused a woman to lose her job and the Internet to completely freak out at her. It's a tantalizing read in which you watch a small disaster elapse in real time. You know it is going to turn out badly in the end for Justine Sacco, but you don't know exactly how.
The articles author Jon Ronson later published a book "So You've Been Publically Shamed," which includes other stories like Justine Sacco's. I think Ronson capitalized on a new social phenomenon and one that people who spend time reading on the Internet are interested in, because they are the demographic who also tweets and cares about technology and its repercussions.
This article, by Jodi Kanto and David Streitfeld, is an expose of the workplace dynamics inside Amazon. Like the 2nd most read article, it deals with the new realities of a digital world. And it also explores what is difficult about that new reality.
The article chronicles the demanding white-collar environment at Amazon and the philosophy behind it. It's dramatic because it includes the personal experiences of former Amazon employees. Also, as an expose, it includes a lot of new information.