The most-read posts on Online Journalism Blog — and on Medium — in 2016


Rounding up the best posts of the year is a good habit to get into, but one that I’ve failed to acquire. In 2014 – the ten year anniversary of this site – I rounded up the year’s best performing posts, which does give you a flavour of what was happening that year — but I forgot to repeat it for 2015.

Here, then, are some reflections on the 10 pieces which did best in 2016 (there were 100 posts across the year), plus the older posts which keep on giving, and a comparison of some pieces which did far better on Medium than on OJB.

Curation is the new obituary and local Twitter search tips

2016 was a year marked by celebrity deaths, and the death of David Bowie in January highlighted the new role that UGC and curation was playing in the way we now write obituaries.

Curation is the new obituary: 8 ways media outlets marked Bowie’s life and death outlined just some of the ways that social media updates were being incorporated into, and embedded in, reports on Bowie’s death. By the end of the week it had idenfitied 16 different types of curation.

The death of Bowie also prompted another widely-read post. As my students looked for local reaction, I wrote How to: find local Twitter reaction to a national event, which also turned out to be one of the most widely read posts of the year.

Platform proliferation — and that Snapchat book

A Snapchat story by the BBC

A Snapchat story by the BBC

The best-performing post of April was a simple list of guides for different social media platforms. 10 essential guides to Snapchat, Instagram, Slack, Tumblr, Twitter, Vine and YouTube was just that.

At the time I was writing my own guide to Snapchat, which became so large I decided to turn it into a short ebook. Published in May, Snapchat for journalists: a great big guide was the first installment in a series of extracts from the book and one of the most-read posts of the year.

One of the challenges of Snapchat was using vertical video filmed using the app in other platforms. How to embed a vertical video from YouTube or Vimeo explained some useful techniques in using vertical video in articles.

Linked data and structured journalism at the BBC

Don't repeat yourselfIn June Basile Simon from BBC News Labs (who has since moved to The Times) wrote a guest post on Linked data and structured journalism at the BBC, specifically ongoing work to avoid repetitive work in journalism. “There is a fundamental programming principle,” he noted, “from Hunt and Thomas’ bible: The Pragmatic Programmer: DRY – don’t repeat yourself”:

“And when I see how much we repeat ourselves in news, I cringe.

“The costs multiply and add up every time you repeat yourself.

“Worse, this is not even beneficial to our cherished audiences. The accumulation of articles and pieces about a topic offers to a new reader only the contemplation of an unstructured chaos.”

July: Snapchat changes again

Snapchat Memories

Snapchat Memories allows you to access your camera roll

Barely two months after publishing my book on Snapchat I had to update it, when the platform announced that it was launching a crucial new feature. Snapchat Memories is nothing to do with memories – but it changes everything outlined how Memories now allowed users to add footage from their camera roll, opening up a number of new opportunities for journalists on the platform.

September: Google’s AI chat app Allo

Google AlloI enjoyed playing with Google’s new chat app Allo in September, and both of my posts about the experience feature in the top 10.

Hello Allo: the first 12 things I learned about Google’s new chat app outlined how Allo’s AI assistant listened in to your chat conversations and could be used to respond more quickly, or add extra information, while Google’s creepy Allo assistant and our rocky relationship so far explored some of the ways that it learned information, including using IP addresses to try to locate you even when you have location services turned off.

2 people, 5 datavis tips

Election datavisTwo leading data visualisation designers were responsible for the only entry from the last two months of the year, as Andy Kirk and Cole Nussbaumer Knaflic gave their 5 data visualisation tips.

On Medium, some posts do better

Occasionally I will cross-post some pieces on my Medium account, largely out of curiosity to see which ones do better over there (sometimes I will edit it a little differently for that platform). The metrics seem to support this: the three most-read posts on Medium did not make the top ten on OJB, and analysis and opinion feature more strongly.

What next? How the news media can respond to losing falls into that category, receiving four times as many views on Medium than it did on this blog.

That came second to an extract from my Snapchat book — Snapchat stories: how to share, how to store, and how to measure — which had a whopping 26 times as many views on Medium (you can compare the OJB version here).

And the third most-read post over there was It’s your filter bubble — not Facebook’s, a reflection in the wake of the UK referendum vote (the OJB version was headlined Don’t blame Facebook for your own filter bubble)

The 8 year old posts which are still being read

Most of the top-performing posts on OJB are from previous years, including some from as long ago as 2008. The most widely read post, for example — How to: embed images in ‘tweet this’ links — was posted at the start of 2015, but only started getting significant traffic after 6 months, and for the last year has been outperforming every other post every month.

Here are the older posts which had the most views in 2016:

  1. How to: embed images in ‘tweet this’ links (from 2015)
  2. 7 ways to blog anonymously {updated} (from 2009)
  3. 20 free ebooks on journalism (for your Xmas Kindle) {updated to 64} (from 2012, but updated every year since)
  4. How to: calculate or find rankings in spreadsheets using RANK, LARGE and SMALL (from 2015)
  5. 7 laws journalists now need to know – from database rights to hate speech (from 2012)
  6. How to get started as a multimedia journalist (from 2012)
  7. Ten ways journalism has changed in the last ten years (Blogger’s Cut) (from 2008)
  8. How-to: learn HTML and CSS by making tweetable quotes (from 2015)
  9. Why do people read online news? (Research summary) (from 2010)
  10. SEO recruiters look for journalists as Google gets fussier (from 2014)

Remind me to do this again in a year’s time…

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