The New York Times' Most Popular Story of 2013 Was Not an Article

It was that dialect quiz.
The New York Times

The New York Times has released its list of most-visited stories of 2013. As The Atlantic’s business editor Derek Thompson noted, they include four breaking news articles, one of which was a map; three health stories; a long narrative about poverty in New York; and two celebrity op-eds.

What interests me most about the list, though, is what's at the number one spot: A news interactive made by Josh Katz and Wilson Andrews called “How Y’all, Youse, and You Guys Talk.” It was one of many stories that news organizations published about dialect this year—The Atlantic made a video!—all inspired by a North Carolina State University dialect quiz, but it was, for the Times, the most-visited thing.

Think about that. A news app, a piece of software about the news made by in-house developers, generated more clicks than any article. And it did this in a tiny amount of time: The app only came out on December 21, 2013. That means that in the 11 days it was online in 2013, it generated more visits than any other piece.

I’ll repeat: It took a news app only 11 days to “beat” every other story the Times published in 2013. It’s staggering.

I can’t help but compare “How Y’all” to “The Scientific 7-Minute Workout,” a straight health article that was the paper’s sixth most-popular article. Other developers wound up converting the article into an HTML or iOS app you can use on your phone; I now use those apps everyday and the ad revenue created by them doesn’t go to the Times.

It’s hard not to conclude that not turning the article into an app was a missed opportunity for the Gray Lady. 

Below, I’ve converted the Times’s list into links:

  1. How Y’all, Youse and You Guys Talk
  2. Blasts at Boston Marathon Kill 3 and Injure 100
  3. 2nd Bombing Suspect Caught After Frenzied Hunt Paralyzes Boston
  4. My Medical Choice,” by Angelina Jolie
  5. Plea for Caution From Russia,” by Vladimir Putin
  6. The Scientific 7-Minute Workout
  7. Site of the Explosions at the Boston Marathon
  8. Invisible Child
  9. The Extraordinary Science of Addictive Junk Food
  10. Cardinals Pick Bergoglio, Who Will Be Pope Francis
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Robinson Meyer is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where he covers technology.

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