I have to keep up with the news for my job. At the same time, I like to know what news everyone else is keeping up with. My favorite tool for this is the Yahoo! list of most popular news stories.
This feature puts the news stories, columns, and pictures that people click the most on one page, along with the most emailed and highest-rated content. So on this one page, I can see what people are reading and sharing most on the most popular news site in the world (as ranked by Alexa).
Sometimes this page can be surprising (like when an obscure science story makes it to the top of the list), sometimes it can be disappointing (when both lists fill up with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton “news”), and sometimes it can be downright bizarre.
A great illustration of this came a few months ago. The most emailed story was headlined Keith Richards: `I snorted my father’ while the most viewed was Couple fights to name baby ‘Metallica’. These were joined on the list by some real news, a few cute animals, and the requisite nearly-naked women.
So there you go: in one place, you could learn about secret jails in Ethiopia, doggie yoga, where to buy the car from Knight Rider, and of course the above story of a rocker mixing his father’s ashes with cocaine (something he later denied doing). And the best part is – both from a personal entertainment standpoint and as a finger-on-the-pulse tool – you can see how much people care about all of these things.
It’s a quite enlightening exercise.