War is replacing disease as the most interesting topic in the world

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Just as in 2020 and 2021, in the past year one story has dominated news coverage. Instead of covid-19, however, in 2022 readers have focused on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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These rankings come from a set of 6.5m stories on 32 news topics compiled by Chartbeat, an analytics company. Of the 1bn hours spent by audiences reading them, the war accounted for 278m in total – a share similar to covid’s in 2021 – and 6.4m on the day the attack began. That’s higher than the first-day totals for the death of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II and Will Smith beating Chris Rock at the Oscars. Readership fell slowly until May, and has averaged 550,000 a day since then. That’s slightly higher than the daily average for Argentina’s recently won men’s soccer World Cup.

A number of American political topics also ranked high, although this may reflect the concentration of Chartbeat clients in English markets. The midterm elections ended 145m hours and Joe Biden 137m. Incredibly, Donald Trump, who is now only former president, still collected 100m – matching the total for stories about British politics, which ran through three prime ministers in 50 days.

As for the previous year’s main theme, there was widespread fatigue among established audiences just as the war in Ukraine began. In early January the novel Omicron version was the biggest story at the time, peaking at 800,000 hours of reader time on January 6th. Since then, however, interest has waned, even though the death toll due to covid in 2022 is likely to be similar to that of 2020. Only when protests erupted in November against the Chinese government’s strict lockdowns that the pandemic caught the attention of readers briefly.

Chart source: Chartbeat

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