Quick programming note… I’ll be on a casual schedule beginning next week.
I’m actually not 100% sure what that means — probably that I might send a few Understandably emails, time permitting, but I’m not sure. The holidays are crazy.
Anyway, we still have tomorrow (another comment thread — I have a great idea). Afterwards, it will be sporadic until after the start of 2020.
With that: Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and Happy New Year!
What was the biggest story of 2019? We might all have different answers for that.
However, my friend and Inc.com colleague Justin Bariso wrote the 87th “most engaging story” in the world this year, according to a data analytics company called Chartbeat.
His headline: It Took Elon Musk Only 10 Words to Reveal Why You Should Never Want to Work for Tesla. Justin wrote it last January, after Musk sent a 1 a.m. email to all Tesla employees.
It's worth a look. (He reads this email newsletter, by the way. Hey Justin!)
But it's also fascinating to look at the 99 other stories on the top 100 list.
What I like about this list is that it’s objective: based on “engaged minutes,” and compiled by a company that counts many of the world’s biggest publishers among its clients.
It shows that while we might tell people that we’re interested in one thing, our browser histories tell a different story. Here’s a sample:
No. 1: “What Really Happened to Malaysia’s Missing Airplane,” by William Langewiesche, The Atlantic
No. 4: “It's only $4.99. But Costco's rotisserie chicken comes at a huge price,” by Nathaniel Meyersohn, CNN
No. 9: “How NBA executive Jeff David stole $13 million from the Sacramento Kings,” by Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN
No. 15: “Meghan Markle receives stern message from Queen Elizabeth after scolding staff over eggs, claims royal expert,” by Stephanie Nolasco, Fox News
No. 21: “‘Wow, What Is That?’ Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects,” by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal, and Leslie Kean, New York Times
No. 29: “How Inuit Parents Teach Kids To Control Their Anger,” by Michaeleen Doucleff, Jane Greenhalgh, and Johan Hallberg-Campbell, NPR
No. 32: “A black principal, four white teens and the ‘senior prank’ that became a hate crime,” by Jessica Contrera, The Washington Post
No. 47: “The fake baby Instagram adoption scam,” by Naomi Pallas, BBC
No. 79 “I'm a driver for Uber and Lyft — here's exactly how much I make in one week on the job,” by Clarke Bowman, Business Insider
No. 81 “I met my boyfriend 12 years after giving birth to his child,” by Jessica Share (as told to BBC News)
There goes your morning, right?
There were 87 English-language posts on the list (the others are in Japanese, Spanish, and Portuguese). Some interesting takeaways:
First, we’re really into crime. Of the 87 posts in English, 22 were about crime—everything from a retrospective of the 1987 TWA highjacking, to a national scam on Airbnb, to “The Jayme Closs case: A chilling tale of murder, kidnapping and escape in rural America.”
Second, we like a good mystery, especially a mystery that has to do with science. Another 13 of the 87 were in this category. Among them: “This college dropout was bedridden for 11 years. Then he invented a surgery and cured himself.” (Ryan Prior, on CNN)
Finally, the things that will be in the history books one day simply don’t captivate us, according to this list.
For example, President Trump comes up in only eight of the 87 English-language stories. Brexit is barely mentioned. And there’s almost nothing about any of the big technology or science-related stories of the day.
Just about every big publisher I know reads these kinds of analyses. They don’t react immediately, but they are influenced by them. And they go where the viewers are.
So for better or worse, I can make some predictions for 2020: More crime and more mystery. Oh, and if you have any insights into what makes Costco tick, be sure to let me know.
7 other things worth a click
While we’re at it, here’s my number-1 story from all of 2019. I never would have predicted the popularity of this one, but the analytics don’t lie. (me, on Inc.)
The Simpsons turns 30. "Frozen in time as the characters may be, the show itself has learned many of the lessons regular people do by the time they're 30.” (CNN)
5-year-old runs sale to pay off classmates’ lunch balances. (CNN)
2 young kids spent days in the woods, found safe. (Fox 10 TV)
First woman ever wins a match at the professional darts championship. (The Guardian)
Disposable sterile hijabs. I am surprised these did not exist before. (BBC)
Extreme weather in Australia. (Business Insider)
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