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December 28th, 2011 RUTH BROWN | News Stories
 

We Know What You're Reading

The most popular stories on wweek.com in 2011.

lede_3723_pigILLUSTRATION: berkleyillustration.etsy.com
Among its many other crimes against journalism, the Internet has shown writers and editors what people really want to read when no one is looking.

We now know that a slide show called “10 Reasons Tim Tebow Is Hotter Than Justin Bieber” will draw more hits than an excellent 3,000-word investigative piece any day. 

As WW’s web editor, I spend all day watching in real time what you are reading on our site, and it doesn’t exactly fill me with hope for the future of the fourth estate.

But looking at our top 10 online stories of the year, I’m pleased to report there might be some life in the old girl yet.


1. 9 Things the Rich Don’t Want You to Know About Taxes
Far and away the most popular WW article of the year. Eight months on, it remains one of the most read articles on any given day. This David Cay Johnston piece appeared in 39 other alt-weeklies across the country. So why was ours the most popular? A near-perfect, search engine-optimized headline that few could resist sharing on Twitter and Facebook. 

2. Documents Show Congressman David Wu’s Staff “Threatened to Shut Down His Campaign”
Yes, it’s the “tiger suit” one, the blog post that first showed Rep. David Wu in his now-infamous costume, and the bizarre email exchanges that surrounded it.  

3. I Am Better Than Your Kids
This book review by a WW intern is still generating big traffic after the author posted it on his blog and multiple Facebook accounts. The book is I Am Better Than Your Kids by “Maddox,” the blogger behind the website The Best Page in the Universe (which we sincerely believed no one had actually read since 2005). The book is literally 300 pages of the author insulting children’s drawings. People continue to leave charming comments about the review. Some of our favorites include: “i hope your kids die in a car crash” and “Seriously your complaints are retarded. I’m pretty sure you might be retarded.”

4. Stumptown Coffee Has Been Sold, Industry Sources Tell WW
Although WW published several longer-form pieces on the sale of Stumptown Coffee to an investment firm, we also sbroke the news in this blog post late one Sunday night. It was originally intended for the following week’s paper, but with a rumor that The New York Times was about to run a similar piece the next day, we decided to beat the Gray Lady to the scoop.

5. What Is “Planking” and When Is It Going Away?
It started with an email from another WW writer, titled just “explain, please” with a link to 2011’s stupidest Internet meme, “planking,” in which people take photos of themselves lying face down in stupid and/or dangerous places. Because the trend originated in Australia, I, as the office antipode, was tasked to explain it in a blog post. Turns out my hastily written headline was a stroke of accidental genius, as Google hits for “what is planking” flowed in all year.

6. The Other Portland
Finally, an article that wasn’t popular because of gimmicks, populism or clever headlines. This piece by WW staff writer Corey Pein on often-ignored but soon-to-be-politically significant East Portland went viral purely on its own journalistic merits. 

7. Best New Band 2011
WW’s annual Best New Band issue is always a big draw, as readers flood the site with comments to tell us how wrong we got it and why their friend’s band is really the best in Portland. But suck it up, haters: The winner, And And And, was victorious in a vote by 161 local music experts, not by us.
 
8. Elizabeth Lynn Dunham: May 12, 1961-Jan. 16, 2011
In a story more than 30 years in the making, WW chose to reveal the identity of Elizabeth Lynn Dunham, the woman then-Portland Mayor Neil Goldschmidt raped in the mid-1970s, after she died in January. WW staff writer Nigel Jaquiss’ portrait of Goldschmidt’s victim brought her out of the shadows and directed new lines of accountability toward people who knew of the crime but remained silent for years.

9. Cheat Local
Corey Pein’s look at the impact of online deals site Groupon on Portland businesses, this article proved particularly polarizing among readers—divided over whether Groupon is evil or Portland’s small-business owners are stupid. But the article also pulled in a lot of traffic from people Googling “groupon horror stories.”

10. Rogue’s Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale
This review of Rogue Ales’ disgusting Voodoo Doughnut Maple Bacon Ale on our blog was all over Twitter and beer forums. We enjoyed reading all the beer nerds snitting that we didn’t know enough to understand such a complex brew. Yes, our food critics’ palates are too immature to appreciate doughnut-flavored beer.

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