The New York Time’s Most Popular Article of 2013 Wasn’t Even a Story

The New York Times released its list of the most visited articles of 2013 a few days ago, and to everyone’s surprise the most visited story was actually not a story at all.  The most visited story last year was a news interactive application that beat out stories about poverty, science, and three articles about the Boston Marathon bombing.

The interactive survey went live on December 21 and instantly became a viral sensation.  Within hours it dominated social media sites and was shared by thousands, quickly making it to all of your friend’s Facebook page news feeds.

But what surprised many wasn’t just that the fact that the most popular story wasn’t a story at all, but an app, or that it garnered more traffic in less than two weeks than any other story produced by the publication.  What shocked everyone was the fact that the most popular New York Times online article was created by an intern.

Derek Thompson, business editor for The Atlantic quickly picked up on this shocking detail and wrote up a quick blurb that in itself became a viral sensation.  Other news outlets including The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed and Mediaite, were some of the many news sites that focused on the surprising fact that an intern wrote the single most visited article for a publication that is considered the frontrunner in international news.

Josh Katz, a graduate student from North Carolina State University was offered a fall internship opportunity at the Times after a project he was working on caught the eye of a higher-up at the publication.  While working with the paper’s graphics department, Katz wrote the app and finished it just as his internship was ending.

The fact that an intern could put together such traffic driving content shows how valuable interns can be for a publication.  Robinson Meyer from The Atlantic couldn’t shake the shock that an intern was responsible for writing the most visited piece for one of the greatest publications in the world.

“It took a news app only 11 days to ‘beat’ every other story the Times published in 2013. It’s staggering,” wrote Meyer.

Additionally, what this story shows is that the landscape for journalism is drastically changing.  More and more readers are interested in engaging with their news, now more than ever before.  When the audience makes a decision as to what they want to read and how they are going to process their news, even respected and traditional publications like the Times has to take note.

So to those who say that internships don’t pay off, you’re wrong.  Only a month after his internship ended, Katz is now working as a staff editor at the Times.

About Sean Flynn

Sean Flynn is a recent graduate from City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. His work has appeared in The Buffalo News, Condé Nast Traveler, The New York Times 'Fort Greene Local', The Daily Meal, and
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