Friday, October 15, 2010

Why is a Dec. 2008 story the most popular today?

Because you're clicking on it.

To be fair, you're clicking on it because it's in the "Most Popular" section of the website. And it's a pretty compelling story, one that any reader would assume is from today.

Why else would it be there, right?

Actually, this is why:

At around 9 p.m. Thursday, a Freeman reader stumbled upon the story online, and it was shared on Facebook. By 3 a.m., it had been 'Recommended' or 'Liked' dozens of times, and it had accumulated 90 views. That's not much, but it is enough to be automatically placed it in the 'Most Popular' stories box for the day, because today's stories actually published at 3 a.m.

So by 3 a.m., today's stories had no hits. But that one had dozens.

So you come in the Freeman's site this morning, scroll down, read "Blind, deaf dog shot, beheaded," say "HOLY S*%@" and click on it. One more hit.

Are we doing this on purpose? No.

It's an automated featured on the site. I asked the powers that be down the rabbit hole if this can be corrected.

It can't.

"The date setting on this feature is the time range of the hits/views regardless of when the story was posted," was the response from the Masters Of All Things Web Except When it Comes to Old Stories Popping Up Years Later.

Incidentally, this has happened before. It happened with "Bard prof busted for pot plants" and "Worker dies at 'American Chopper site in Orange County."

If you can sense a pattern here is because there is one.  All these examples share the same characteristics: They're highly compelling stories; they are somehow optimized for search (Google "Bard" and "pot" to see what I mean); and once they are found, they go mini-viral on Facebook.

In conclusion, I hope you don't get caught Googling "Bard" and "pot" at work.