Most Viewed Online Stories of 2012: Survey Results

In just a few short weeks we'll be closing the books on 2012.

And what a year's it's been, from political ads running amok (peppered with 47 percent worth of unspeakable blunders and political polls popping up like Pop-Tarts from your kitchen toaster) to President Obama's convincing reelection win over Mitt Romney with a dysfunctional Congress and crippling debt waiting in the wings. The year also witnessed heaps of harrowing stories, whether from a movie theater, a college campus or even a Sikh temple, involving tragic, senseless deaths of innocent victims felled by a spray of bullets, only to see our spirits raised, if only momentarily, celebrating the majesty of the London Games; while celebrations later turned to grief, once again, over Hurricane Sandy wreaking havoc on the Northeast. The year began on a heartbreaking note with news of the tragic death of pop icon Whitney Houston from a drug overdose only to end with high-fives and tears of joy around the world with news that Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, are expecting their first child.

In order, then, to get a sense of the most widely viewed online stories of the year, I thought I would reach out to some of the major news sites to see what grabbed reader's attention in 2012.

• On April 19, 2012, The N.Y. Daily News splashed with an exclusive picture of a 24-year-old Colombian call girl involved in a sex scandal, after 11 Secret Service agents and nine military servicemen found themselves in hot water for hiring a string of hookers in Cartagena, Columbia, where they were supposed to be preparing for President Obama's Summit of the Americas. The exclusive received 2.265 million page views on the Daily News website, according to Paul Cross, Media Analytics Manager for the New York daily.

• On the Daily News Sports pages, two stories that received some hefty traffic during the year included Sheryl Crow being forced to sing to federal agents after they grilled the pop and folk music sensation about her former fiancé, Lance Armstrong, and the fallen hero's doping allegations with his victorious Tour de France teams. That story was closely followed by John Harper's piece about how disturbed Yankee players became after being greeted with a chorus of boos from the home crowd in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Detroit Tigers -- a series in which the Bombers fell in an inglorious four-game sweep.

• If the Secret Service sex scandal wasn't spicy enough for you, the most widely viewed story at Gawker, the New York-based blog that focuses on celebrities and the media industry, was Kate Middleton's (Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge) topless photos, originally published by the French magazine Closer . That salacious post was followed in the total number of unique visitors by the Hulk Hogan Sex Tape , which was originally published by TMZ.

• CNN posted an attention-grabber during the summer about five males who in 1982 as teenagers took a photo of themselves at Copco Lake, Calif. Since then, while maturing into adulthood, they have taken a snapshot of themselves every five years that has now spanned three decades. The grown men plan to continue this tradition every five years until they die.

According to Omniture, an online marketing and web analytics business unit owned by Adobe Systems, CNN's unique feature of the five men attracted 61 million page views.

CNN's most viewed online news story of the year, meanwhile, was the devastation that followed when Hurricane Sandy, the 10th hurricane of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season, bore down with a vengeance on the Northeast, particularly the Jersey Shore, with punishing winds and a merciless wallop, leaving 11 dead and an estimated 2.8 million residents on the East Coast without power. The story drew 45.3 million page views on CNN's website.

• The most viewed story on New York Magazine's website, based on total unique visitors, was Frank Rich's blockbuster "Fantasyland,'' a compelling commentary chronicling how repeated acts of denial and retreat from reality have poisoned the Grand Old Party.

• According to a company spokesperson, the two most viewed stories on the New Yorker's website for 2012 received identical traffic. They were Ian Parker's gripping feature on Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old student at Rutgers University who plunged to his death by jumping off the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22, 2010, after two students at the university secretly videotaped him kissing another male in his dorm room. The other most viewed story on the New Yorker's website for 2012 was Elizabeth Kolbert's essay on parenting and why kids are spoiled rotten.

• Given how President Obama's foot soldiers took the Romney camp to school in mastering social networking tools, data-crunching proficiency, and identifying potential voters on cutting-edge databases during the bruising presidential campaign, it's probably no surprise that Pro Publica's most viewed story of the year was "Is Your Neighbor a Democrat? Obama Has an App for That,'' a timely story about a new app that identifies Democratic voters with blue flags, which includes age, gender of the voter and even where they live by a mere click on a Google map.

Pro Publica is an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

• The most viewed story of the year at was the much anticipated announcement that former Indianapolis Colts player and future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, after being wined and dined by a number of suitors, decided to slip into a Denver Broncos uniform for the start of the 2012 NFL season.

• The most trafficked feature of the year on, included a highly unusual story, one with an ironic twist, about a Wheeling, W.V., woman who was awarded more than $10 million, the largest judgment ever awarded against a debt collection agency, when the company used abusive language and implied through a voice message that the victims house was in jeopardy if she didn't pay a debt. It's in fact illegal, as the story points out, for collection agencies to make empty threats about seizing homes or serving people with lawsuits.

Additionally, in their breaking news coverage, the Aurora, Colorado shooting and the shocking announcement of Whitney Houston's death were two of the highest trafficked stories of the year, according to Nicole Enberg, spokesperson for

• At, the most viewed video of the year was NBC News' live special coverage of the 2012 Election . The other most viewed videos of the year included the live stream of Whitney Houston's funeral services , James Holmes' (alleged suspect in the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater shooting) mom saying, "You have the right person," "Fearless Felix Jumps from the Edge of Space" and "John Edwards Trial Takes a Surprising Turn."

• Though originally posted in 2011, a story about six Estonian nationals arrested and charged with running a sophisticated Internet fraud ring using a class of malware called DNSChanger, which infected approximately four million computers in more than 100 countries, including 500,000 in the U.S was the most widely viewed story at for 2012.

• At the Yahoo Search engine, the presidential election was by far the most widely searched news topic for 2012, followed by 2.) The tragic death of legendary singer and actress Whitney Houston (found dead on February 21 in a Beverly Hills hotel); 3.) Hurricane Sandy, 4.) The surging prices at the gas pump; and 5.) Trayvon Martin, the black teenager wearing a hooded sweatshirt and walking in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., on the rainy night of February 26th when he was confronted by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman, who fatally shot the Florida 17-year-old.

-Bill Lucey
December 10, 2012

This article was cross-posted from The Morning Delivery