The deaths of some of the most influential political figures of recent history, including Nelson Mandela and Margaret Thatcher, loomed large over much of this year’s news agenda, as did a surfeit of tragedies that unfolded in 2013, the rawest of them all being the Clutha helicopter disaster in Glasgow that killed 10 people last month.
Where online news is concerned, the most popular stories are ones that catch us off guard, in every sense. Events that shock, surprise or titillate are always in plentiful supply, but predicting what will strike a chord with our readers is a difficult and often futile exercise. Our most popular stories may seem disparate and unrelated, but there is a common thread that runs through them all: a strong Scottish connection, which reiterates the enduring pull of news that happens close to home.
1. New GTA V release tipped to rake in £1bn in sales - 80,747 visits
Grand Theft Auto V was much more than a video game; for many, it felt more like an event. An elaborate PR campaign was the pinnacle of a game five years in the making, following on from its hugely successful predecessor. Grand Theft Auto V may be set in a fictionalised Los Angeles setting, but gamers were delighted by numerous hidden references to everything from Scottish place names to legendary bands such as Deacon Blue.
In October, Kilmarnock was named the worst place to live in Scotland by Crap Towns Returns, a sequel to a book that compiled Britain’s least desirable places to live. One contributor to Kilmarnock’s entry in the irreverent tome described it as “A truly crap town… where heroin addicts and stabbings, as well as football violence and pound shops, are aplenty.”
3. World’s strongest beer ‘Snake Venom’ launched - 36,367
BrewDog, the Ellon-based brewer, was once Scotland’s most notorious vendor of the sort of percentage-busting concoctions that got health groups and MSPs all in a froth. Brewmeister went one better with a 67.5 per cent beer called Snake Venom, which came with a warning that only one beer should be consumed per sitting. As the name suggests, Snake Venom is over ten-times stronger than standard supermarket lagers such as Budweiser or Stella Artois.
4. Scottish independence: 47% support union - poll - 35,183
With so much to-ing and fro-ing in the Scottish independence debate over the last 12 months, it’s no surprise that a story about support for next year’s referendum should appear here. Published not long before the release of the Scottish Government’s white paper on independence, this story reflected a broader polling trend that saw large swathe of the electorate remain in staunch support of the Union. That said, support for a Yes vote has since inched upwards.
5. Star Flyer set to show Edinburgh as never before - 29,250
The Star Flyer attraction in Edinburgh’s city centre was unveiled with no little fanfare. The St Andrew Square attraction, which offers riders a 200ft-high panoramic view of the city at dizzying speeds, was opened to the public in November and was meant to be the centrepiece of Edinburgh’s Christmas carnival. Earlier this month, a part of the moulded plastic seating from the ride had fallen off mid-air, leaving a young mother fearing for her life. The Star Flyer has since become emblematic of the numerous and at times farcical controversies that have hit organisers of the capital’s festive celebrations.