You can tell a lot about the current state of the world's psyche by examining what daily news stories are classified as most read and most shared on the BBC News website. As a publicist, I always find it interesting to see if any of the coverage I set up for my clients actually features in these sections at all.
In a way, these two lists reveal the paradoxical coexistence of conflicting human desires: DEATH, VANITY, JUSTICE.....cheaper car insurance?
These popular news story lists are also outlined on a regional-basis, which is even more fascinating. For example, today the Iran bomb blamed on Israel and US story is the most widely read news item in Asia, Middle-East and South America, but features very low in the European list.
The most SHARED and READ stories today
(please note that these stats seem to change every hour)
The most SHARED stories (i.e the most emailed) from the BBC News website
1. Big bum and thighs 'are healthy' – I wonder if the ladies who received this felt relieved or slightly peeved. Will women across the country be swapping the traditional “does my bum look big in this?” for “does my bum look healthy in this?” I doubt it.
2. Nigeria's leader breaks silence – Nigerians are hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons at the moment. Still, I am perplexed as to why this story is the most shared today, bearing in mind that millions from all over the world log on to the website every day. Are Nigerians sharing this story amongst themselves? Perhaps the BBC’s reputation for selective impartiality makes it a popular source for reliable information for people living in nations with a controlled press. Interesting. (Actually the stats reveal that there is a 31% increase in traffic from Africa today, which means that it probably was the Nigerians sharing this amongst themselves).
3. Arctic tern's epic journey mapped – How interesting to see that people are still fascinated by bird migration. The science reporter who wrote the story must be feeling quite chuffed, and surprised.
4. Anne Frank helper dies aged 100 – Everybody likes a good Anne Frank related story. The world’s most famous and celebrated diarist is still a hot topic.
Now, if we take a look at the MOST READ stories today, you can see that the order has changed:
1. Man admits dismembering salesman – People are still fascinated by gory stories of human depravity and violence. This should not come as a surprise. At least this gruesome story did not feature in the most shared. Today is actually the anniversary of Agatha Christies death - what a peculiar coincidence.
2. Big bum and thighs 'are healthy' – People like a good news story. And if you are wondering, this was a top story in all the regions apart from Asia.
3. Islam4UK banned under terror laws - War on Terror news which carries a strong national angle is still a hotly watched topic.
4. Guantanamo guard reunited with ex-inmates - The use of the term “reunited” struck me as odd - but then I read on. "The news would always try to make Guantanamo into this great place," he says, "like 'they [prisoners] were treated so great'. No it wasn't. You know here I was basically just putting innocent people in cages."
5. Baby seriously ill after attack – More tales of human depravity.
6. Bizarre cricket caught on camera – As proven time and time again by our You Tube consumption habits, people love to watch ordinary and mundane moments enter the realm of the bizarre.