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Online Audiences Spent the Equivalent of 87 Years Reading One Article in 2016

At the end of the year, we tend to look back at the work that has changed the way we see the world. From Columbia Journalism Review’s favorite pieces of journalism, to the New York TimesYear in Pictures, to Parse.ly’s own compilation of top blog posts, year-end lists serve to reinvigorate the media industry in the year ahead; after all, it is pretty inspiring to see the year’s best content gathered in one place.

There’s also a lot to learn from the content we created last year: Which posts got readers’ attention? Why? The answers can be surprising. For example, data shows us that posts with a huge audience are not always the ones we thought would gain traction.

Last year,  600 billion user actions occurred on our network (e.g. pageviews, mobile views, long scrolls/reads), which includes more than 1,000 digital media sites. Here, we’ve assembled one of the industry’s only data-driven lists of the most trafficked pieces of digital media in 2016 to see what drove the most engagement and attention online.

Top Posts in the Parse.ly Network 2016

Most Engaging Posts of 2016

Which posts in our network of digital publishers received the most engaged time in 2016? The Penny Hoarder, one of the largest personal finance websites in America, boasted the top three most engaging posts of 2016. In fact, the top-performing  listicle on how to make money at home captured the equivalent of more than 87 years of total engaged time.

most engaging post, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

The top posts in this category are all evergreen — meaning that they are not tied to a specific event or time. Each post will probably continue to attract readers through 2017, as well. However, it is important to note that other posts (that may not be evergreen and engage readers over time) may have more of an impact at the moment they are published.

Also, across most of the top posts this year, we noticed that readers spend the most time reading about how to improve their day-to-day lives. From making money to winning the lottery or putting on nail polish effectively, people are interested in topics that serve them.

Posts with the Most Search Traffic in 2016

What posts did readers find via Internet searches?

most search traffic, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

The average person spends 11 years of her life watching television, and Uproxx’s post about the best television shows on Netflix is a testament to this pastime. Says Alexander Diedrick, SEO Manager at Uproxx:

“With our SEO strategy, we always try to provide the best user experience, and part of that is matching the searcher’s intent as close as we can. For people looking for Netflix shows to watch, that includes keeping our selections updated and providing as comprehensive and authoritative of a list as we can. We don’t try to game the system since we put our readers first, and with any content publisher, that is the best tip for ranking in Google.”

Posts with the Most Social Traffic in 2016

What posts did readers find through social sites?

top social traffic, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

Interestingly enough, posts with the most social traffic in 2016 were many of the same posts that had the highest engaged time in 2016. And again, The Penny Hoarder dominates the list.

Let’s put the social success of The Penny Hoarder’s top post in context:

That popular Huffington Post article making the Facebook rounds in February, “An Open Letter to My Friends Who Support Donald Trump,” shows 2.1 million Facebook interactions on its public post page. The Penny Hoarder’s “32 Legitimate Ways to Make Money at Home” received 3.1 million Facebook shares. Unexpected, right?!

Alexis Grant, executive editor at The Penny Hoarder, credits the success of the publication’s posts to the following (as told to Parse.ly):

  • They provide useful and relevant information for our readers. When a reader learns something helpful from a post, they’re more inclined to share it with their friends!
  • They’re written in a fun way. We believe personal finance doesn’t have to be dull; we combine information and advice with personal stories and tips that make the post interesting for the reader. Our headlines are catchy and clicky, too!
  • In addition to making these posts clicky, interesting and highly valuable so they spread organically, we also invest in Facebook advertising to grow our readership and boost engagement. (Note: Parse.ly didn’t differentiate between organic and paid social reach in this analysis.)
  • Finally, we test tons of variations of headlines and images to find the one that best resonates with our readers, which results in more traffic and engagement. The headlines you see here are the result of lots of testing!

Most Traffic from Pinterest

Lifestyle domains like Allure, Vogue, and Glamour often publish highly visual tutorials that are widely shared on photo-based sites such as Pinterest. In 2016, it looks like audiences were preoccupied with their hair and nails — perhaps in preparation for a future engagement?!

top pinterest post, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

Most Traffic from Reddit

Reddit bills itself as a “social news aggregation, web content rating, and discussion website.” Readers engage with content by “upvoting,” and the most popular content from the Internet is surfaced. This year, sites like Quartz and Ars Technica (written for business and tech professionals) wrote posts that received significant traffic from Reddit due to their relevance to a specific audience.

top reddit post, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

Most Traffic from Twitter

Interestingly, the top posts receiving traffic from Twitter were celebrity-oriented. And what would a top Internet list be without a post on nudes, #amiright?

top twitter post, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

Most Traffic from Facebook

Does this look familiar to the “Posts with the most Social Traffic in 2016” list above? It should! Facebook is responsible for the majority of social referral traffic in Parse.ly’s network of digital publishers, so this comes as no surprise.

top facebook post, parse.ly

Other top posts in this category include:

Most Traffic from LinkedIn

As expected, this list of posts is primarily work-related, in keeping with LinkedIn’s focus.

top linkedin post, parse.ly

Other top posts from this category include:

And there you have it — a data-driven list of the most trafficked posts in Parse.ly’s network in 2016. In looking at the similarities between the posts in each category, some patterns begin to emerge about what types of content audiences are interested in. These insights might just help your team to create 2017’s next big story!

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