The 5 Biggest Digital Stories of 2015

SimilarWeb looked at the stories that generated the most desktop traffic for 10 leading US news sites: The New York Times, Fox News, USA Today, The Huffington Post, Business Insider, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed, The Wall Street Journal, CNN and USA Today.


1. The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think by Johann Hari on The Huffington Post


2. 37: Big Wedding or Small? Try the 36 Questions on the Way to Love by Daniel Jones on The New York Times


3. How Often You Really Need to Shower (According to Science) by Rachel Wilkerson Miller on Buzzfeed


4. Police: Bryce Williams fatally shoots self after killing journalists on air by Eliott C. McLaughlin & Catherine E. Shoichet on CNN


5. Prison vs. Harvard in an Unlikely Debate by Leslie Brody on The Wall Street Journal



The biggest overall digital news story of 2015 in the U.S was the live on-air shooting of a reporter and cameraman by Vester Lee Flanagan, known as Bryce Williams — which was the most viewed online story for both CNN and Fox News in 2015.


However, the study reveals that more than one-third of the most popular stories for these publishers in 2015 were “life hacks” covering topics from finding love, to the optimum number of showers to take a week.


The most popular New York Times article in 2015 looked at finding love (“The 36 questions to better intimacy”), while the most-viewed Business Insider story provided tips on how to maintain a successful relationship.


Other traffic-boosting stories for publishers in 2015 tackled job interview questions (Forbes), the secret of addiction (Huffington Post), how to cook perfect rice with less calories (Washington Post), how often to shower each week (BuzzFeed), the simplest way to get into shape (BuzzFeed), and secrets to successful networking (The Wall Street Journal).


The study found that a single online story on desktop can generate up to 0.34% of overall yearly traffic to a major U.S news sites over the course of the year. For successful stories on mobile, the impact is even higher, generating up to 1.61% of a publisher’s traffic share during six months. By the end of 2015, online news and media remained a high performing industry, accounting for 12.67% of all online activity in the US.


Joel Zand SimilarWeb Digital Insights Manager said: “While breaking news will always remain a vital source of traffic for online publishers, in 2015 we saw that the stories which most engaged audiences provided insights on the various life stages, such as love, relationships, jobs and socializing.”


Both publishers and advertisers need to understand which news stories are most likely to engage audiences online, especially as a single successful story can generate more than 1% of a site’s traffic.

About the Author -

Ohad is SimilarWeb's Inbound Content Editor covering digital trends and data-driven insights. When he's not too busy creating or sourcing the latest and greatest content driving online success, he enjoys mixed martial arts training, community-generated art festivals in the desert, and of course being a dad. His name is pronounced like "Oh g-d" with an H.

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