Opinion: My worst-read columns of 2017

  • Nicholas Kristof
  • New York Times
11:00 p.m Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017 Opinion

We journalists like to boast about how many clicks our stories get, or how our columns go viral. Fair enough, but today let me show off my clunkers.

These are pieces I wrote that nobody read. Well, not nobody. I read them. My mother did. And that’s about it. These weren’t necessary my actual worst columns — that’s just a clickbait headline — but they were among my worst read. These had an audience that was about 3 percent that of my best-read columns, and one troubling conclusion evident from a cursory look at my most-read and least-read columns is this: Trump sells, and overseas news doesn’t.

I’m not allowed to give raw numbers, which are proprietary, but I can say that on average my columns about President Donald Trump had readership more than twice that of my columns about foreign topics. The news industry, especially television networks, understands that anything about Trump draws an audience, while pieces about overseas crises involve an unfortunate trifecta: They are expensive to cover, sometimes dangerous to report, and often do poorly with audiences. I’m grateful to my editors for letting me spend their money on these global stories, and to my readers for sticking with me as I cover them.

Here are some of my worst-read columns of 2017. To read them, go to nytimes.com.

As noted, the common thread of these poorly read columns was, disconcertingly, a spotlight on injustice or humanitarian needs, and my Trump-related columns received incomparably greater readership. But I don’t entirely despair, for my two best-read columns of 2017 were about child marriage in America and about religious hypocrisy in opposing Obamacare, and both of those also have a social justice element.

Thanks to all of you for reading my columns in 2017 — well, most of my columns, even if you did leave a few to my mom and me — and let’s hope for a calm and peaceful 2018 that gives columnists nothing to rage about.

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