Taking a look at statistics regarding what people read on the Houston Herald website in 2018, there is no question what the most popular subjects are.

All but three of the top 100 most-read articles on the site during the year dealt with law enforcement, criminal charges, death, crashes, a problem at a local business or organization, or some sort of tragedy. The first time something else shows up is in the 40s (a story about election results), the next time is in the 50s (a story about Miller’s Grill changing hands) and the only other time is in the 70s (a story about Golden Hills Trail Rides and Resort in Raymondville being sold at auction).

Everything else in the top 100 falls into one of those previously mentioned categories.

Keep in mind those statistics are entirely objective; they’re electronically compiled and are a direct reflection of what people “click on” after they log onto the site. Basically, it’s clear that what people like to read about most isn’t the “nice” stuff, but rather the “dark” stuff.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But it’s worth pointing out that a similar amount of content is posted on the Herald website from within those darker categories and what would be considered “lighter” material, like feature stories, columns, sports recaps and community interest articles.

But what’s inarguable is that the lighter content doesn’t receive anywhere near the same amount of attention as that of the hard-edged variety. In fact, the most-read feature story from 2018 doesn’t show up until No. 103 (an article about BF Farm in Huggins that was picked up by four agriculture industry magazines) and the top column was at No. 120 (one that pondered the activities of the U.S. Air Force’s mysterious X-37B spacecraft).

The first sports story on the list came in at No. 143, and interestingly, it wasn’t just “Houston beats so-and-so,” but rather was largely about a controversial call in a high school football game.

The simple reality is, not many people will click on stories about a choir earning awards, a businessperson being recognized for some sort of community service, a church hosting a big event or a person catching a record-sized fish. But gunfire, motorcycle crashes, child abuse and drug charges? Click city.

Again, there’s no right or wrong here, just a revealing glimpse into human nature that illustrates how people don’t care to hear about good stuff nearly as much as they crave hearing about bad stuff.

And based on the overwhelming evidence, it’s probably not something to complain about. It just is what it is, as they say.

The good news for the folks producing the content is: There won’t likely be a shortage any time soon of material fitting the mold of what people want to read or hear. On the contrary, the way society is trending (even in small town America), there should be more than enough of the type of content people obviously want.

See you in 2019.

Doug Davison is a writer, photographer and newsroom assistant for the Houston Herald.


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