Newspapers in the 21st century are a funny business. Not so long ago, with the exception of letters to the editor and phone calls from sources, the public's reaction to individual articles was always a little opaque. But with a pervasive internet, newspaper people now have to deal with a new phenomenon: ratings. Now we know exactly how many people are reading the website, which stories they open and how long they stay on the page.
We've got the data, so why not share a little? In the interest of disclosure and neighborly voyeurism, here are the best-read articles that the Dallas Observer ran in 2016 according to Google Analytics. This list does not count the videos or slideshows, particularly the photo essays that are deemed "Not Safe For Work." Those, of course, top the charts.
What is revealed by examining the most popular articles is a gratifying response to the newspaper's broad scope of topics, attention to breaking news and value given to fresh reporting. You've voted for sharp, intrepid journalism and we'll continue to provide it. Thanks for reading, and here's to more in 2017.
10. RIP Point Blank Guitarist Rusty Burns, 1952-2016
This year we lost Ya’acov “Rusty” Burns, a talented guitarist who shared the stage with legends such as Johnny Winter, the Allman Brothers Band and ZZ Top. Fans flocked to this profile of his life and last days before he succumbed to cancer.
9. Just Outside Dallas, You Can Sleep in a Treehouse and Wake up to the Scent of a Lavender Farm There's something about reality television that is soothing and appealing. Maybe some future historian will link their rise in appeal as a relief from the tense world depicted on 24-hour news channels. At any rate, readers really liked reliving a night spent in a structure featured on the show Ultimate Treehouses.
8. The 10 Best Dance Clubs in Dallas
A slew of young, up-and-coming dance clubs and a thriving DJ community means that there's never a shortage of places to go and get turnt, any night of the week. Our music writers perform some street-level service journalism.
7. Attorney Brian Loncar Found Dead Days After His Daughter's Suicide
North Texans grew up with Brian Loncar on the television, promising his own kind of justice in television ads. In December the region was shocked by the suicide of his daughter and his death soon after. The news broke on a Sunday, but Observer staff were still able to reach county officials and confirm his death. The archives contained coverage of his life and career, giving depth to our breaking news article.
6. Stop, Thief! Citizens Give Chase, and a Loyal Dog Comes Home in the End
Jim Schutze describes a slice of heroism in a story that went global. When someone swiped Wiley the dog from outside a store, uninvolved citizens rallied back to get the pooch home.
5. Self-Appointed Bathroom Cop Catches Dallas Woman Using Women's Restroom
When a man barged into a women's restroom at Baylor Medical Center in Frisco, he wanted to make sure that Jessica Rush was actually a woman. This incident, caught on video, highlighted the absurdity of politicians regulating who uses bathrooms.
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4. 11 Dallas Bars Where Adults Eat Free, So Long As You're Drinking
Is anyone really that surprised at the massive response for this article? Still, it's a good example of service journalism, done Dallas Observer style.
3. The Dallas IRS Office That's Quietly Determining the Fate of the Clinton Foundation
Dallas' local branch of the IRS' Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division is reviewing the tax status of the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation. This simple sentence, written during the height of the campaign, brought enormous attention from both sides, far beyond North Texas.
2. Letter from Texas: Listen America, Trump Is Just Embarrassing. Cruz Is Scary
Columnist Jim Schutze has never been one to mince words. When he saw the Republican's primary choice between Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, he judged one as a bigger threat. "An orange-faced, thin-skinned, narcissistic, blow-hard clown versus a truly scary, malevolent alien from the dark side," he writes. "I gotta go with the clown." His words struck a chord at the time, and people far outside of DFW read and shared the column.
1. Dallas Has Now Lost 82 Cases Against Robert Groden. Someone Call Guinness.
Schutze brings common sense to the city's crusade against a conspiracy theorist who operates in downtown Dallas. Readers responded well when this article first ran, but weeks later it sparked a long-running conversation on Reddit, pushing its readership into the stratosphere. Which is fine by us. Our archives exist for a reason, and seeing our reporting sparking conversations like this is gratifying.