What hooked you on the Web
Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and the word "hot. " That's all it took to get you to look. Throw in Huskies gone wild, Seattle's saltpocalypse...
Seattle Times staff columnist
Top 20 Web stories1. Bill Clinton says he understands Palin's appeal (Sept.)
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Bill Clinton, Sarah Palin and the word "hot." That's all it took to get you to look.
Throw in Huskies gone wild, Seattle's saltpocalypse and some too-noisy Des Moines sex swingers, and what do you have?
The people's-choice news awards of 2008.
Take a bow, readers. You say you want us to write about the sober civic issues of the day. Education, say, or transportation. But when you say that you are lying.
I know because once again at The Seattle Times we have compiled a list of the most read stories of the year on our Web site, seattletimes.com. This is no "best-of" as chosen by editors or critics. Nor is it a ranking based on gravitas or impact.
No, it's so much more revealing than that. It's the stuff you actually wanted to read.
Our software counted all the times readers clicked on the tens of thousands of stories and blog postings for the year, then ranked them. The result is like a junior high who's-most-popular list, only for journalism.
Let me cut to the most disturbing finding straightaway. I vowed as a columnist never to quote Dave Barry — you know, the famous schtick he does where he says I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. I feel I have no choice now but to break that rule.
That's because the Enumclaw horse-sex story was the No. 5 most-read story of this year. That's right — a story we published back on July 15, 2005, and which continues to lurk out in cyberspace, ranks No. 5 on our most popular list. For 2008.
We don't publish specific Web-traffic numbers. Suffice to say that several hundred thousand of you people went deep underground to read this story. Again. And Again. Even though it is three years old.
"You can't keep a good story down," said The Seattle Times computer whiz who compiled this list for me.
So true. Which is why it also figures that a story featuring the most gossipalicious politicians of the last two decades — Bill Clinton and Sarah Palin — was the No. 1 most read story of the year.
It was a wire story lasting only eight paragraphs, titled "Bill Clinton says he understands Palin's appeal."
But it is jammed with classic Clintonia, by which I mean murky innuendo that sets the mind aflame. Such as: "I come from Arkansas; I get why she's hot out there."
Surprisingly for such a huge political year, just three other election stories made the Readers' Top 20.
One — about the Snohomish County Republicans selling $3 bills that depict Barack Obama wearing Arab headgear and featuring a camel — may, at first glance, seem trivial or sensational.
But looking back it pretty much sums up how Republicans approached the 2008 election.
Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels isn't going to be happy to see our list.
The second most-read story was consumer-affairs reporter Susan Kelleher's blockbuster from last week on how Seattle won't use salt on snowy streets.
And — worse to my mind — doesn't really plow but rather gently tamps the snow down, thereby guaranteeing it eventually turns into a treacherous ice field.
At last check there were 905 reader comments on the no-salt story. Many of them borderline in a family newspaper.
There are lessons in the list. Sure, sex sells, and sex with animals sells the most. But we knew that already. Another is that local, local, local is what readers want.
I like seeing that no matter how big this city gets it's still Huskyville with skyscrapers.
Four of the most-read stories were from last January's Victory and Ruins series. That was about criminal abuses on the last Rose Bowl UW football team, and, most indictingly, how everybody from deans to judges to prosecutors looked the other way.
There is also something new in this list. Fourteen of the 20 stories were written by our staff, while five came from wire services or other papers. But one was written by the object of our affections: a reader.
He is Charles Pluckhahn, a retired securities analyst from Seattle.
In mid-March he detailed how he was a delegate for Hillary Rodham Clinton but, disillusioned by her negative campaign, was dumping her for Barack Obama.
"Sorry, Hillary, you've crossed the line" ranked as the 12th most popular article of the year. It caught fire around the country as raw opinion from the political trenches.
"User-generated content" is all the rage now in the new media environment. It's where you readers not only read our paper, but write it.
We'll be looking for readers to do more and more of our work for us in 2009!
So congrats, Charles. Happy New Year. Now get back to work.
Danny Westneat's column appears Wednesday and Sunday. Reach him
at 206-464-2086 or email@example.com.
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