The first month of 2013 saw Sydney record its hottest day ever and it set the temperature for the rest of the year's news coverage, as readers jumped from stories about heated politics in Canberra to destructive bushfires in the Blue Mountains and on the central coast.
In the year of the federal election, it was of little surprise that the most-read story on smh.com.au was election night on September 7. Based on readers logging on from desktops, web apps and mobile devices, and ranked in terms of unique visitors and page views, the live election blog was the best-read story of the year. It received nearly 1.25 million page views as readers tuned in to watch the government slowly change hands, and see Tony Abbott step up to the podium. In addition to statistical updates, photos, social media and running reports from journalists in the field, readers watched Fairfax Media’s live election broadcast.
The bushfire season started in October, earlier than previous years, and the Herald’scoverage on extreme bushfire days dominates the list of the year's top stories. The live blog on October 23, when bushfires in the Blue Mountains threatened properties and burnt out-of-control for days, was the second most-read story of 2013. Readers turned to the live blog from 6am till evening for updates.
The live coverage on October 17, the day when the Rural Fire Service dubbed the bushfire situation the “worst in more than a decade”, comes next on the most-read list. An interview also published that day with RFS volunteer brothers Josh and Matt Jones-Power became the most-read NSW article of the year. A photo of the brothers, slumped on the ground with their crew, overcome with exhaustion, went viral across social media. The photo was taken by Newcastle Herald photographer Phil Hearne.
Rounding out the top three events of the year was the Rudd leadership spill, showing that nothing keeps readers more enthralled then a tense political stoush. On June 26, Stephanie Peatling’s Politics Wrap kept readers up to date as Julia Gillard called for a leadership ballot and Kevin Rudd announced he would challenge, before winning that evening 57 votes to Gillard’s 45.
Julia Baird’s comment piece, “Gillard goes out with dignity and class”, also proved popular that day.
While it only happened a few weeks ago, the sudden death of Fast and the Furious star Paul Walker became the most-read celebrity story of 2013. Walker was in the passenger seat of his friend’s Porsche when the driver lost control and the car burst into flames in Los Angeles. The death of Glee star Corey Monteith in July also struck a note with readers. The young actor was found dead in a hotel room after using heroin combined with alcohol.
In sport, more than 1.3 million readers logged on to smh.com.au to follow the Melbourne Cup - hands-down the most-read day for 2013. The top articles included our live blog and the aftermath of Fiorente’s win.
The live blog on one of the hottest days on record was widely read, as was the severe weather warning story after Sydney hit a high of 45.8 degrees a week later. The colour purple intrigued readers when the Bureau of Meteorology introduced a new weather forecasting map and extended the temperature range up to 54 degrees.
Meanwhile, it would not be an end-of-year list without the weird and wonderful.
In May, Jiroemon Kimura became the last man on earth born in the 19th century - and the oldest man on the planet at the age of 116. The centenarian's story has been in the top 10 list of most-read stories since.
Thousands of readers also proved keen to learn how to buy your own island.
Finally, you couldn’t help but click on the story about Samoa Air’s “pay as you weigh” rule, a fitting way to round up what has been one hefty year of news.