What a year it was. From major political events like the U.S. Election and Brexit to the summer Olympics; from gun violence and terrorism to gripping personal narrative on issues of social justice, the stories of 2016 captured our attention.Chartbeat is proud to release the Most Engaging Stories of 2016, featuring the most captivating journalism of the year across the Chartbeat network as defined by Total Engaged Time — the total amount of time visitors spent actively engaged in content. This year’s top stories, which surfaced out of more than 46 million articles, cover a wide range of topics and span format types like interactives, live blogs, and longform content. See the stories that defined the breadth, the depth, and the power of journalism in 2016.And follow along on Twitter with #MetricShift this Friday at 1pm to tweet about it with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!
So what were the key trends?
Political stories ruled 2016. Between the U.S. election and the Brexit referendum, political stories made up the majority of the top stories, including nine of the top ten. This differs greatly from 2015, which only had one political story make it into the top ten. Even more surprising is the breadth of formats delivered this year: from interactive polling experiences to live blogs and fact-checking, this year’s political coverage proves that innovative storytelling is alive and well.
In many ways, this was the Year of the Interactive, with election prediction pages and live results pages captivating our attention and driving a massive number of engaged, repeat visitors. The top story, 538’s General Election predictor, received more Engaged Time than the top five stories of 2015 combined.
Breaking news stories were second only to politics this year and made up a solid 24 of the top stories. While many of the top political stories built up traffic across the year, the top breaking stories garnered most of their traffic in the hours and days after the events they covered. That attention runs the gamut from major storms to winning Powerball tickets, proving that breaking news comes in all shapes and sizes.
In a world where attention is scarce, 2016 proved that longform content still has a strong role in engaging and moving readers, with articles on Tiger Woods, 9/11, and El Chapo leading in this category. While last year’s overall top story was The Atlantic’s longform piece, What ISIS Really Wants, with 3:00+ minutes of average Engaged Time, longform was pushed to just outside of the top 10 this year.
Powerful, personal narratives dominated the list of top opinion articles, driven by strong social traffic, demonstrating that when we emotionally connect with a story, we’re more apt to share and discuss it. Many 2016 opinion pieces focused on the moral, ethical, and emotional reasons one might support Clinton or Trump.
Justice and Rights
Articles with a strong social message were a major part of the national discussion in 2016. Notably, many of them were told from a first person perspective. From major investigative pieces rooted in undercover work to the moving letter from a Stanford student to her assailant, first-hand accounts and breaking news affecting personal and societal rights captured our attention as well as our empathy.Check out the full list of the most engaging stories here. Have any questions or comments? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know your thoughts.
Don’t forget to follow along with our #MetricShift Twitter chat this Friday at 1pm to discuss more about the most engaging stories of 2016 with Josh Schwartz, Chartbeat’s head of data science. See you there!