The Most Engaging Stories of 2020

Our 2020 version of The Most Engaging Stories is a reflection of a year marked by a global pandemic and drama-filled U.S. election cycle. Of the articles that we found to have the highest engagement in 2020, 93% were about or related to the pandemic and election.

Despite the headwinds they faced, this was also a year marked by fearless reporting. Newsrooms across the world — and the many displaced from their newsrooms — still did more with less, publishing so many captivating articles, infographics, and live blogs that they merited their own lists this year.

Our 2020 format was divided into three Top 10 lists — articles, infographics, and live blogs. Politico’s Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How. had the most Total Engaged Minutes this year, while BBC’s Covid-19 in the UK: How many coronavirus cases are there in your area? and N-TV’s Coronavirus live ticker demonstrated how gripped the world has been on Covid-19 this past year.

“This year’s Most Engaging Stories list reminds us that meaningful stories can thrive in so many ways and formats,” Chartbeat CEO John Saroff said. “The pandemic and U.S. elections engaged all of us around the world – and their prevalence on the list underscores their impact today and for years to come.”

The top articles, infographics and live blogs in 2020

Here are the top five articles, infographics, and live blogs that captivated readers in 2020. See the full rankings at 2020.chartbeat.com.

The Top 5 Most Engaging Articles of the Year

1. Politico | Coronavirus Will Change the World Permanently. Here’s How.
2. The Los Angeles Times | Federal investigators look for answers in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash
3. The New York Times | Long-concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance
4. The New York Times | F.A.Q. on Stimulus Checks, Unemployment and the Coronavirus Plan
5. Politico | I’m a Body Language Expert. Here’s What I Saw During the Conventions.

The Top 5 Most Engaging Infographics of the Year

1. BBC | Covid-19 in the UK: How many coronavirus cases are there in your area?
2. CNN | 2020 Election: Presidential Results
3. Fox News | Elections 2020: Presidential Elections Results
4. The New York Times | 2020 Presidential Election Results Live
5. The New York Times | Tracking Every Coronavirus Case in the U.S.: Full Map

The Top 5 Most Engaging Live Blogs of the Year

1. n-tv | Coronavirus live ticker
2. BBC | US election 2020: Polling day dawns as voters pick Trump or Biden
3. FiveThirtyEight | 2020 Election: Live Coverage
4. CNN | Election results and news: Live updates
5. n-tv | US election live ticker

The topics that engaged more readers in 2020

It may come as no surprise that Covid-19 and the U.S. election dominated coverage and engagement in 2020. The data we’ve analyzed across our network this year has indicated as much:

The fact that these two major events had global implications also contributed to their emergence in diverse formats. For instance, Covid-19 infographics from the BBC, New York Times, and The Washington Post alone saw more than 25 billion Total Engaged Minutes combined.


See all of 2020’s Most Engaging Stories here


Similarly, U.S. election live blogs from n-tv, CNN, and FiveThirtyEight drove more than 10 billion minutes of Total Engaged Time, significant for an event that typically lasts one night (and maybe a few more this time around).

The figures behind the stories that made waves

Among our articles, we saw the theme of human interest emerge once again.

Two of those pieces, Federal investigators look for answers in Kobe Bryant helicopter crash from The Los Angeles Times and What to Know About Breonna Taylor’s Death from The New York Times, accounted for more than 3 billion Total Engaged Minutes. More so, it showed us that even in the midst of a global pandemic, readers are still captivated by stories of larger-than-life individuals.

How we determined the Most Engaging Stories

The quantitative factors

Our Data Science team analyzed 40 million pieces of content published in 2020, representing 420 billion minutes of Engaged Time. The top 1,000 articles were then sorted by Total Engaged Minutes*, individually reviewed and categorized, and narrowed down to three lists of 10 stories, infographics, and live blogs.


How we calculate Total Engaged Time

Total Engaged Time is the total amount of time visitors spent actively reading and interacting on pages. Read more about our Engagement metrics.


The qualitative factors

We assembled a cross-functional team of readers and curators from inside Chartbeat to determine the list. Beyond Total Engaged Minutes, we wanted to ensure that the list celebrated original reporting, while giving a nod to the other predominant formats we saw — infographics and live blogs. 

However, similar to past years, we omitted the following formats:

  • Republished transcripts or collections of uploaded documents without original reporting
  • Listicles comprised primarily of social media reposts or images
  • Sports scores, box scores, and individual league rankings
  • Quizzes, games, or interactive media that do not contain original reporting and/or are continually updated throughout the year

* Editor’s note: The engagement data was compiled Dec. 2. We have and will continue to review traffic to articles after that date to account for the impact of any breaking news.

More on the 2020 Most Engaging Stories format

As we analyzed our 2020 Most Engaging Stories data, we could not ignore a fundamental shift in the way audiences discovered and engaged with content this past year.

While there were still many notable standouts among the longform journalism that reflects the Top 10 in that category, we could not ignore the changes in storytelling across the industry. That was no more apparent than in 2020, where we saw the substantial impact of live blogs and interactives, which we believe merited their own categories. 

Therefore, aside from our typical focus on longform journalism, we also wanted to expand our purview to live blogs and infographics, acknowledging and commending the work of publishers who invested in multimedia storytelling to engage their audiences.


Didn’t make the list? Get a demo of Chartbeat to see how you can increase engagement across your site. 


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