It’s been an amazing year. Thank you all for reading us!
Our cofounder and CEO, Nick White, has written about the trials and tribulations of launching a media startup. I get the fun part: Reeling off the stories that made it big in 2011.
Like any online media organization, we watch our numbers closely. Not because we’re stats freaks or think journalism is some kind of numbers game, but because we believe that every pageview represents a person, every click is a conscious intent. The numbers are just a proxy for the voice of our readers.
It’s easy to look at the popularity of cat videos and throw your arms up. Far more challenging is to engage thoughtfully with what your readers actually find interesting. And infinitely daunting is the prospect that you didn’t do as good a job as you should have in getting them interested in a story you thought was worthy.
For reasons both highbrow and lowbrow, I’m pleased with our top 10 most-read stories of 2011. They say that we’re onto something: That covering the Web’s communities as real communities yields juicy stories. That there’s as much good in the world as there is evil. That by connecting with each other, we become better people.
Here’s what you told us was important in 2011.
Staff writer Kevin Morris picked Reddit as his beat, and made it his own this year. This story, about Reddit’s r/trees, came from a combination of luck and preparation. He’d been working on a profile of Reddit’s active pro-marijuana community for months. As we got close to publishing, r/trees burst onto the Beltway radar, propelling a legalization petition to the top of a White House website. Only Morris had the back story with the players inside and outside Reddit.
Senior editor Janet Kornblum is always urging our email- and IM-loving reporters to pick up the phone. She practiced what she preached, reaching Moisés Chiullan as he undertook a rescue mission for a small business that was drowning in bad PR from an absurdly rude customer-service rep.
The best stories are always about people. While he left Reddit years ago, the site’s cofounder, Alexis Ohanian, still cares deeply about it. An antipiracy bill currently being debated in Congress, he said, would have prevented him from launching Reddit in the first place had it been the law of the land. That made an abstract political debate personal.
The cynical view is that any story with “nude photo” in the headline is sure to do well. People who stumbled across Lauren Rae Orsini’s thoughtful report about Egyptian blogger Aliaa Elmahdy’s struggle for free speech may have been looking for something else. But they got an education about what it means that we can search the Internet for naughty pictures in the first place.
The story of Lucas Gonzalez, whose family was saved from the poorhouse by the generosity of strangers, epitomizes the do-gooding power of Internet communities.
Jill Filipovic’s strange encounter with a TSA agent who had an opinion about her vibrator sent Twitter exploding in righteous indignation.
We always look for the people behind the meme. We’re still not sure who Annoying Facebook Girl really is, but we’re glad someone’s on the case.
When you use Twitter, it’s inevitable that you keep score: The microblogging service tracks tweets, followers, and more. There was intense interest in our list of top Twitter users—including some sound criticism that we’d left out some influential women.
Who is Forthewolfx? Just some Reddit user who wanted to be famous. He got his wish: Searches for his name still generate a steady stream of traffic to this article explaining the whole phenomenon.
Sometimes what readers really want are clear answers to the questions everyone’s asking. In this case, people rightly want to know when Facebook will hand over your data to law enforcement—just another privacy concern when using the social network.