Trying to make sense of most viewed stories on NYTimes.com

By Steve Outing

NYTimes.com released its Top 10 Viewed Features of 2007 (even though 2007 isn’t over yet!), and here they are:

1. Magazine: Sweeping the Clouds Away
2. U.S.: Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead
3. U.S.: Virginia Gunman Identified as a Student
4. Health: Study Shows Why the Flu Likes Winter
5. Magazine: Unhappy Meals
6. Maureen Dowd: A Mock Columnist, Amok
7. Books: An Epic Harry Potter Showdown
8. Multimedia: The Victims
9. Circuits: The iPhone Matches Most of Its Hype
10. Dining & Wine: 101 Simple Summer Meals

I’m trying to make sense of this but am having a hard time. What do you make of the list?

I’m baffled by the top traffic-getter, the story about classic videos of Sesame Street being released. That’s the most popular story of the year on NYT?! (My inability to relate to that story may be because by the time Sesame Street came on the air I was too old for it.)

I definitely don’t get why 3 of the top 10 stories are about the Virginia Tech shootings (2 articles and a multimedia graphic about the victims). NYT wasn’t the local paper(/website), after all.

Some stories on the list make perfect sense for getting high traffic: a review of the latest Harry Potter novel; a review of the iPhone when it came out; Stephen Colbert “filling in” for Maureen Dowd; the story about why the flu likes winter. (The latter is one of those stories that captures lots of attention because we can all relate to it. Ditto for the “Happy Meals” story about what we should eat to stay healthy and avoid disease.)

But overall, I don’t know, I expected to be able to identify some trends about what attracts online news readers. What do you see here?

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!