The devastating Zoobe attack in Mogadishu on October 14th 2017 was among the most read international affairs event alongside other disasters in Syria, Afghanistan and Myanmar.
Graphic detail: News peak Charting the news of 2017
The year’s events that most grabbed the world’s attention
THERE is no doubt that the world finds President Trump fascinating. He appeared on the cover of The Economist nine times in 2017—a record for any one person in a year. He also upped the stakes by suggesting that anything critical of him or his agenda was “fake news”. Plenty of people read it anyway.
Yet statistics show that online newshounds are as interested in disasters and scandals as they are in politics. Chartbeat, a company that tracks online readership for 8,000 news publishers in 50 countries, provided its daily readership data for 2017 to The Economist. About half the data come from English-speaking countries, a quarter from Europe. The chart draws on three million articles—2.5bn words in all—covering the most significant events of the year.
Mr Trump’s inauguration attracted 4.4m hours of readership. But just as crowds for the women’s march a few days later were bigger than his, so was the number of people reading about it (6m). Both were overtaken by the hoo-ha around the president’s attempt to restrict travel from some Muslim countries. That consumed 19m hours of readers’ time between January and March and 40m hours over the year. Other presidential travails kept the attention, too. Efforts to repeal Obamacare, the firing of an FBI chief and investigating Russian meddling garnered 60m hours.
Meanwhile, German and French elections barely registered globally, nor did events in Myanmar, Kenya or Japan, though coverage of Syria drew 36m hours of readership and Islamic State 33m. People spent five times longer (8.5m hours) reading about a non-Muslim shooter killing 58 in Las Vegas in October than they did reading about a Muslim suicide-bomber killing 22 in Manchester in May.
Attempts at national and regional realignment did better—Brexit, and Catalonia’s push for independence, together earned 24m hours of viewing. On 10th September Hurricane Irma’s pounding of Florida gained the most attention (2.5m hours) of any story on one day. Total coverage of Irma drew four times the readership of Hurricane Maria’s hitting Puerto Rico.
Scandal sells. The downfall of Harvey Weinstein, a film producer, because of allegations of assault, attracted 15m hours of attention. Royalty sells, too. Ratko Mladic and Robert Mugabe could not compete with Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle, which saw 3m hours of traffic. A good old-fashioned love story? Now, that’s real news.