Column: The most-read opinion of 2016, and why

Published on January 3, 2017.

A look at the most-read opinion pieces published by the Inquirer last year shows that politics, especially political anxiety over the Duterte presidency, was the dominant concern of our readers. It also shows a healthy mix of the types of opinion that resonated with the audience: columns, of course, but also an editorial, a contributed commentary, a letter to the editor—and a vivid illustration of the digital “long tail.”

But let me begin with a word about the limits of this overview. I am using statistics from the online consumption of the opinion pieces (both web and mobile). I am limiting myself to only the Top 10 pieces read online, which together account for almost one-twentieth of all Opinion traffic. I am basing the ranking on page views, as tracked by Google Analytics (not on share numbers, which can help show consumption only on social media). And I can tell you that all these 10 opinion pieces enjoyed a minimum of six-digit traffic.

(I can also add that traffic increased substantially over 2015 levels, for both Opinion and the website as a whole.)

By far, the most-read opinion piece of 2016 was Solita Monsod’s Aug. 27 column, “De Lima’s record speaks for itself.” This essay on the politics of vindictiveness generated 2.5 times more page views than the last item in the Top 10 list. It begins forthrightly: “This persecution of Leila de Lima is getting out of hand. That it is led by President Duterte makes it even worse. The President, who, in his State of the Nation Address just last month, described himself as ‘not vindictive,’ has proved otherwise.” (It was also shared almost 50,000 times.)

The next four in the most-read list were published, or read again, in the long run-up to the May election. Businessman Ramon del Rosario Jr. is a regular contributor to our Business Matters column every Saturday, but his unscheduled commentary of May 3, a week before the election, was read and shared especially widely. “A vote for our future” was an earnest appeal to voters to “consider the tremendous cost of the wrong choice.”

The long tail refers to the idea that internet-available content enjoys a much longer shelf life than content that is limited to nondigital platforms. The third most-read opinion piece last year was actually written on Sept. 26, 2014, by the now-deceased and much-missed Neal Cruz. “Binay’s lawyer faints while defending his SALNs” was written while Jejomar Binay, the vice president at the time, was the prohibitive favorite to win the next presidential election; it enjoyed a second lease on life in the last two months of the 2016 presidential campaign, when Rodrigo Duterte was surging in the surveys. (To be clear, the number of page views it accumulated last year is the reason why it is third in the list; but all of its page views put together, from 2014 onward, puts it in a virtual tie with Monsod’s De Lima column.)

The fourth most-read piece was “Outrageous Duterte wants out,” this writer’s Jan. 5 attempt to understand the psychology behind candidate Duterte’s startling statements; I knew for a fact that these were giving some of his closest allies a case of the palpitations.

The editorial “Who’s ‘stupid’” came in fifth. Published on Feb. 16, a few days before the first presidential debate, it sought to engage candidate Duterte’s flippant response to questions about his health.

The last five pieces in the list were all published after Mr. Duterte had already won the presidency. Amando Doronila’s take from Canberra saw print on Aug. 3: “Duterte popularity starts to erode.” Two columns from this writer came next. “The unfortunate Salvador Panelo” came out on Aug. 23, “The unfortunate Mr. Yasay” on July 12—the same day the historic arbitral tribunal ruling was released. (Incidentally, Inquirer.net’s overall traffic hit its historic daily high on that same day, because of the ruling.)

Ivan Jensen’s impassioned letter to the editor, “Duterte could fail Filipinos,” saw light on Oct. 7. And, a rarity in Top 10 lists, the 10th most read opinion piece of the year was published only late in the year, on Dec. 18. I think it is fair to say that former chief justice Art Panganiban’s “Will Bongbong replace Leni?” will be one of the key questions of 2017.

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Filed under Newsstand: Column, Readings in Media, Readings in Politics

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