We here at The Washington Post put you, the reader, first. Being a newspaper for a community means being a steward of the public trust, asked to alert our customers to the perils that exist in the world. It means being asked to ensure that you are fully informed about what lies ahead, good or ill.
So: Next week is peak “of the year” article week. We recommend not visiting any sites (besides ours) for that period.
For those of us who write for the web everyday, bless our hearts, the end-of-year listicle (“list” plus “article”) is a hallowed tradition, because thinking of 10 things and then remembering the correct order for the digits 1 through 10 means that we can dispatch articles quickly and then go have a drink at a holiday party. In today’s modern get-more-traffic media environment, the end-of-year listicle (“lie” plus “participle”) has become part of the nuclear arsenal of attention-grabbing — but this is partly your fault. As it turns out, people actually search for end-of-year listicles (“limp” plus “icicle”) for some reason.
Using data from Google, we looked at how often people searched between July and the following June for the phrase “of whatever-year-it-is” for the past ten years. Unsurprisingly, the most active week for such searches has been the week that includes December 31 — when everyone is at home and drunk and able only to process things outlined in numeric order.
(The faded lines are the actual Google trends for each of those years.)
What’s interesting though is that searches for “of the year” — a slightly looser term — actually peak two weeks before the new year. That is, next week.
(The searches presented here only reflect data from within the United States. You’ll notice that there’s a drop-off after May or June — presumably because there are “of the year” listicles — “Listerine” plus “manacles” — created for educational institutions — or, perhaps, for the end of the NBA season. It’s hard to say.)
Which came first, the search of an end-of-the-year piece or the end-of-the-year piece? The answer is: no one cares. For publishers, next week is when you should publish your end-of-year articles. For readers, next year is when you should expect to read them. And then in three weeks, roll out the “of 2014” nonsense. Why? Because we said so.
One final note. The two states that search for “of the year” articles the most frequently are Wisconsin and Missouri. The state that searched for “of 2014″ more than any other was Mississippi. So please remember to center your end-of-year content around cheese curds, the nation’s longest rivers, and top Senate also-rans of the year. These things are called “listicles,” a word for which no etymology is known.