While Mountain Xpress continues to pump out our weekly print edition, we also put plenty of time and energy into our virtual presence on the Web. One fun aspect of the online world is the ability to track the number of comments and views we receive on what we post. Here's a quick look at the online popularity of Xpress' 2009 stories, blog posts, photos and more.
Most viewed news articles: There's nothing like imagining what the apocalypse might look like when it comes to getting people's attention. That's exactly what Montreat College history professor Bill Forstchen did in his novel One Second After, published in the spring of 2009. Specifically, Forstchen writes about what life might be like in the town of Black Mountain in the aftermath of a high-altitude electromagnetic-pulse attack. "Apocalypse WNC," Managing Editor Jon Elliston's story about the book, its author and its attempt to raise awareness about the possibility of such an assault was the year's most-viewed Xpress news story online.
Claiming the No. 2 spot was "Whose TV?" — reporter David Forbes' February story concerning controversy at URTV, Asheville's public-access channel. The article examined internal disputes that went public and kicked off a yearlong series of stories chronicling the fight and its impact on the station.
The third-most-read Xpress news story online was Forbes' account of an Asheville man arrested and accused of kidnapping and brutally assaulting a prostitute. "Complete Mayhem" chronicled the case of 31-year-old carpenter Lewis Kyle Wilson, who was named a "person of interest" by police in an unsolved 2006 murder.
Most-viewed arts & entertainment articles: When it comes to having fun, there's nothing like the prom. "Corsage and Limo Not Required," staff writer Alli Marshall's compilation of Xpress readers' prom memories (both good and bad), captured that spirit en route to becoming A&E's top online hit this year. The story was pegged to the Prom! party at the Grey Eagle in November, which featured local bands Reigning Sound and Floating Action, a disco ball and the best in thrift-store formal wear.
Xpress contributor Jake Frankel scored A&E's second-most-viewed story online with "Phish Phans Rejoice," which rounded up fans of the jam band in advance of its summer reunion show at the Asheville Civic Center. The band's decision to play Asheville triggered a frenzy of fans lining up to get tickets, and the day of the show itself, Phish loyalists literally took over one downtown street.
"Building an Echo Mountain Empire?" by regular contributor Anne Fitten Glenn ranked as A&E's third-most-viewed story online. The story chronicled the creation of an entertainment empire in downtown Asheville, checking in with Echo Mountain Studio owner Steve Wilmans. The recording studio launched a major expansion in 2009, even as Wilmans and partner Mike Healy continued work on transforming an old Lexington Avenue building into a new craft brewery, restaurant, music venue and hostel.
Most-viewed news blog posts: Xpress covers a lot of territory with its online blog posts at our home page, mountainx.com, including columns, reviews, news and arts-and-entertainment tidbits.
Among news blog posts, the top hit was David Forbes' story detailing how former Asheville firefighter Charles Alexander Diez pleaded guilty to shooting at bicyclist Alan Simons and received a four-month jail sentence. The whole episode sparked considerable controversy, particularly in Asheville's cycling community, where some felt that Diez had received overly lenient treatment.
A holiday edition of Brews News, a relatively new feature on the Xpress Web site, captured the No. 2 spot. Compiled by Anne Fitten Glenn, the collection of updates tracks Buncombe County's bubbling craft-beer scene. The popular Dec. 9 edition included everything from a note about Highland Brewing Co.'s 15th anniversary celebration to tips on how to properly store your beer.
Claiming third place was Mountain Xpress' "Twitter Manifesto," published on April 1 (April Fools' Day): the same day we turned over its Web site to news tweeted by the public. In the manifesto, Xpress Publisher Jeff Fobes explained the thinking: "In that same amount of time, we could be tweeting and aggregating our way to a whole new vision of community and even, perhaps, of dialogue itself. And thanks to Twitter's technologically enforced brevity, it will almost be a 'conversation without words.'" The "Twaper" was a ruse, of course, but it did highlight Xpress' growing interest in using social-media tools and continued focus on expanding collaborations with readers.
Most-viewed A&E blog posts: Bele Chere is Asheville's biggest street party each year, and news about the event's musical guests is always closely watched. The music is free, and Alli Marshall's May roundup of who was slated to play came in as the most-looked-at A&E blog entry.
Second was A&E Editor Rebecca Sulock's update on the disappointed Phish fans who couldn't get tickets for the Asheville Civic Center show. About 200 fans had lined up — many camping out for more than a day — but the tickets sold out in seconds, and only about 20 of the folks in line were able to score tickets for the big reunion show. An error in the Ticketmaster system apparently allowed the release of 400 tickets that were supposed to be held back for the venue to sell.
Anne Fitten Glenn, who also writes Edgy Mama, Xpress' weekly parenting column, had a third-place hit with her column about vehicles around town sporting stick family stickers. Musing about their allure, she talked to a company spokesman about how the stickers became so popular.
Most-viewed Blogwire post: In mid-2009, Xpress launched Blogwire, a local-news aggregator powered mostly by staff. The feature allows any area resident to sign on as a contributor, and we continue to encourage more folks to participate.
The most-viewed Blogwire post was "New restaurant, Chai Pani, opens with customers out the door," (1,490 hits); "81 new NC laws take effect today: Here's the list," (1,296); and "16,000 organic laying hens available to good homes," (1,254).
Comments and Forums: Here's a quick look at the always-entertaining and provocative world of the Xpress Forums, a virtual cauldron of comment and debate.
• Most new forum threads: Forums administrator Steve Shanafelt (400); santeh-piff (300); richey (168).
• Most article comments: Xpress movie reviewer Ken Hanke (2,164); santeh-piff (1,372); entopticon (905).
• Forum threads that received the most replies: Asheville Topix Forum Watch (379); MountainX Forums Radio-AKA "Music to Board To" (295); and "Global warming no more" (294).
• Most-viewed forum threads: Rap thread (283); Asheville Topix Forum Watch (379); Expanded anti-grafitti efforts stirring in Asheville, 11,532.
• Most-viewed photo galleries: POPAsheville 2009 (47,325); Asheville celebrates the inauguration (41,478); Asheville-area weddings (34,012).
Contact Jason Sandford at email@example.com, or 251-1333, ext. 115