Hot online content – three golden rules

The hottest news content of 2015 has been revealed – with huge audiences for video, live blogs and in depth features. Head of Content Simon Donohue offers advice for brands seeking similar success.

The Guardian has just produced this fascinating round-up of the content that attracted most attention online last year, ranked both in order of viewers and the total length of time that people spent grazing it.

It’s no surprise that live coverage of the Paris attacks attracted most attention, but many of the other articles also confirm what we already know about the way that people are increasingly spending their time online.

Yes, they want to be informed and educated, but they also want to be entertained too. In addition, they are keen to consume different types of content. The Guardian’s top 20 list includes video footage of scientists discussing the discovery of water on Mars and a gallery of photographs highlighting overpopulation and overconsumption across the world.

And it’s worth noting that in almost every case, people discovered the stories in The Guardian’s list via a search engine rather than visiting its website direct.

It stands to reason that The Guardian website ranks prominently for relevant and timely stories, but it still took skill and foresight on the part of the title’s journalists for those stories, videos, quizzes and galleries to be there for people to find them.

That’s important for people looking to use storytelling techniques for PR and content marketing purposes too. By understanding what has worked in the past we can get a better understanding of what will work in the future, enabling us to produce articles that will be useful for owned and earned media channels alike.

So what were the biggest stories of 2015?

Buzzfeed has also produced this article listing its hottest content from 2015. Another Buzzfeed articlehighlights the most successful viral videos posted by the site.

As a PR and content agency with a specialism in health and social care, we had a particular interest in the biggest stories of the year in that sector.

The biggest digital health stories of the year were rounded up by, while general practice magazine Pulse highlighted the top five clinical articles of 2015.

Visit the links below and you’ll get an idea of what types of content attracted the hoardes on other websites around the world in 2015:

  • The New Yorker’s biggest online story of 2015 was about The Really Big One, an earthquake that will one day devastate the Pacific North West of the United States. It attracted the combined attention of readers for a staggering 115 years.
  • Sky News’ biggest stories, not ranked in order of viewers, included the Paris attacks, the Oscar Pistorius trial and the Alton Towers rollercoaster crash.
  • Ad Week attracted most readers with a risqué story about the way that Groupon had reacted to comments about a new banana case. (You’ll have to read it yourself.)
  • Manchester Evening News secured its biggest audience of the year with a story about a teen driver who bragged about driving at 142mph and then went on to kill a motorist.
  • PR Week‘s top content included stories about KFC and Anonymous.
  • The Huffington Post provided a really interesting insight into the stories that had attracted the most attention on social media channels including Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

And we love this live story tracker from the BBC, which reveals in real time the biggest stories in the world.

It might seem obvious, but it’s vital to understand that each piece of content is very different and also very successful in attracting the attention of its target audience.

So how do you produce the hottest online content in 2016?

1.Offer a broad range of content formats

As we’ve said before, the press release is still important in 2016 but it’s only one part of the PR and content mix. If you want to produce the hottest online content in 2016, then videos, polls, ebooks, podcasts and webinars are just some of the things that you should try.

The examples above show the variety of content types that worked with different audiences last year. Try them for yourself this year.

2. Understand your audience

Make sure you understand your audience, where they hang out online, and the subjects that they’ll be alert to on news websites, social media feeds and through search engines.

Produce content that the people you want to work with will want to consume.

3. Develop relationships and understanding

Finally, it’s vital to develop relationships and understanding that will ensure that the content you produce works as hard as it possibly can to deliver its purpose, be that profile raising, search optimisation, or delivering inbound links to your website.

Amplify your content by sharing it among your followers on social media and by offering it to third party websites which might be looking for useful and relevant content.

And don’t forget to contact us if we can help out in any way.