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Not coronavirus alone: What people read about the most on the Internet in 2021

The American company Chartbeat regularly analyzes what topics in the past year were of the greatest interest to consumers of online media resources. In 2021, the study included 7,000 (5,000 last year) English-language news sources. It took into account how much time readers devoted to a particular topic when viewing.

45 big topics became the most popular ones. 275 million hours were spent on reading them.

As expected, the coronavirus was the most popular topic. Throughout the year, people searched and read about the course of the pandemic. Last year they were more interested in information about the disease, and in 2021—about vaccinations. Also the top stories included: British and Alpha variants (at the beginning of the year), Indian and British strains (in summer), Omicron (late autumn and winter). The stories about vaccines comprised 43 million hours and those about new strains—27 million.

Only events in American politics could compete with Covid for the readers’ attention. The attack on the Capitol, Biden’s inauguration, the impeachment of Trump—these topics practically monopolized the readers' time in January-February. They comprised 60 million hours. Interest in other developments in American politics and economics also remained relatively high throughout the year.

The attention to international politics was relatively low. Only the government of Boris Johnson in Great Britain drew attention to itself all year long. The US withdrawal from Afghanistan caught the readers’ attention in August. The elections and the FRG Chancellor’s transition were in the public limelight in the second half of the year.

Russian President Vladimir Putin was remembered only in the 4Q in the context of threats of an attack on Ukraine.

Among other international developments, the military coup in Myanmar (in January), negotiations with Iran on the nuclear program (in February), and hostilities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict zone (at the end of May) outstanded.

Oprah Winfrey's interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in March were discussed a lot online.

In the business environment, Elon Musk, who had provided many grounds to drawing attention, was unbeatable. Even bitcoin could not compete with him.

The container ship Ever Given that had blocked the Suez Canal in March was of interest for only a few days.

Facebook (Meta) only gained special attention thanks to Francis Haugen, the company’s former employee who had publicly disclosed Facebook's internal culture.

One of the most interesting business events of the year was the fluctuating stock price of the video game company GameStop (at the end of January). At that time, due to the amateur traders’ coordinated actions, the value of GameStop shares soared by 700% in a week. For several weeks, the readers watched the confrontation between professional stockbrokers and amateur investors who used social networks to coordinate their actions.

In sports, the Tokyo Olympics and the European Football Championship were key events. Also, the attention of the audience was riveted on the transfer of football player Lionel Messi from Barcelona to French PSG. The audience also followed the Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai who had disappeared after publicly accusing the PRC Vice Premier of sexual harassment.

In the entertainment industry, a new James Bond film outstanded (in September). Also, the readers followed the release of singer Britney Spears from parental custody.

The year was not rich in natural disasters, so three events hit the top of the readers' attention: the Storm Uri in Texas in February, Hurricane Ida in August-September, and the tornado in Kentucky in December.

The collapse of a 12-story residential building on the night of June 24 in the suburbs of Miami in the United States can be considered a man-triggered disaster of the year.


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