Xpress’ Web site grew by leaps and bounds in 2008, with daily arts and news briefs and a slew of new multimedia features. And by counting page views, we’ve learned which stories and features snagged the most online readers this year.
Here’s the view from cyberspace:
Most-viewed news articles: Managing Editor Jon Elliston‘s “Cruel Summer,” which played out both in print and online as a four-part series (www.mountainx.com/cruelsummer), was the year’s most viewed news feature. The story, subtitled “The Attack on Camp Summerlane,” chronicled the frightening showdown at a Transylvania County summer camp in 1963.
The second-most-viewed story, “Brain Man,” was Multimedia Editor Jason Sandford‘s review of the work of Dr. Michael Rosner, a Henderson County neurosurgeon who treats patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome by removing bits of skull and brain. Rosner’s controversial approach has led to an extended battle with the N.C. Medical Board over his license to practice.
The third-most-viewed news story of 2008, “Twilight of the Giants,” was former staff writer Kent Priestley‘s examination of the slow death of giant Eastern hemlock trees in the Cataloochee Valley.
Most-viewed Arts & Entertainment articles: Staff writer Alli Marshall‘s article on niche fitness, “Let’s Get Physical,” which tapped into local interest in exercise fads from pole dancing and yoga to Jazzercise and Wii Fit, was the year’s most-viewed A&E story.
Priestley scored another hit with “Mountain Country,” a look back August of 1925, when Okeh Record Co. representatives set up shop in the George Vanderbilt Hotel in downtown Asheville and recorded mountain music. Kent’s story ranked second among A&E offerings.
A Charlotte couple’s guide to improving their marriage—by having sex every day for a year—was the topic of the third-most-viewed A&E piece, “Doin’ it Daily,” by contributing writer Anne Fitten Glenn.
Most-viewed news posts: Xpress online posts are a kind of catchall, including everything from news stories and updates to columns and assorted other bits of information.
The most-viewed news post was staffer David Forbes’ reporting on the legal troubles of Leslie Richard, the owner of a local eco-fashion business called The Oko Box. Richard wrote about having been the target of a scam on her store’s blog—and wound up the target of a $20 million federal lawsuit.
Forbes also claimed the No. 2 spot among news posts with his coverage of a brawl at the Bier Garden in downtown Asheville. In May, a manager and another bar employee were arrested on assault charges after fighting with an Alcohol Law Enforcement agent. The agent, David Miller, said the fight started when he tried to ticket employees and their friends for drinking after hours.
Jason Sandford’s story about the arrest of legendary mountain moonshiner Marvin “Popcorn” Sutton ranked third. Caught with thousands of gallons of untaxed whiskey, Sutton faces charges that could put him away for life.
Most-viewed A&E post: Glenn, who writes the Edgy Mama column, had the top A&E post with a column about the health benefits of beer.
Placing second was one of Marshall’s weekly Book Report installments. This one, in February, was a look at Chris Bohjalian‘s novel The Double Bind, including an extensive Q&A with the writer.
The third most-viewed item was a simple notice by Elliston on the opening of The Thirsty Monk, a downtown Asheville pub specializing in Belgian ales.
Comments and Forums: Xpress has worked hard to create an online meeting place where readers can come together and talk thoughtfully, and politely, about most anything. Here’s a quick look at what was hot on the Web site and in the Forums:
• Most article comments: Xpress movie reviewer Ken Hanke (1,567 comments), Travelah (814) and Ralph Roberts (769).
• Most Forum posts: Former Xpress A&E Editor (and current Forums administrator) Steve Shanafelt (1,244 comments), Thomas38 (1,010) and freelance writer Jason Bugg (938).
• Top creators of new Forum threads: Shanafelt (87), Thomas38 (54) and Bugg (49).
• Forum thread with most replies: “Palin as McCain’s VP—Smart Gamble?” (241 replies), “Why do the Moderators Allow Certain Posters Such Freedom?” (232) and “What Song is Stuck in Your Head Today?” (209).
• Most-viewed Forum threads: “Six Word Story,” “What Song is Stuck in Your Head Today?” and “Why do the Moderators Allow Certain Posters Such Freedom?”