In the pre-digital-era newspaper — the roughly 130 years before, let’s say, 1995 — how did we know which stories resonated with readers? The volume of letters to the editor, calls to the newsroom (this started around 1914) and how often stories were picked up on broadcast media were just a few of the ways we gauged the response to our journalism.

Today we have an additional tool that helps us understand how our journalism is consumed — Google Analytics. With the end of 2014, here is a look at some of the stories and features that clicked with readers of our websites:, and

Before the reveal, let’s put the size of our audience in context. While print newspaper circulation has declined since the late 1990s, as people began to turn to the Internet for the news and information, more people than at any point in our history today are reading our journalism. Print readers. Digital subscribers. Facebook fans. Twitter followers.

There are more ways than ever to access our quality news and information. And our journalism reaches well beyond the Maine border. We have paying digital subscribers in 47 out of the 50 U.S. states. Almost 40 percent of our total Web traffic comes from outside Maine, showing the country’s continued interest in our great state.

So what are people reading? On, the single most read story the entire year was Matt Byrne’s Jan. 30 story about the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruling that transgender student Nicole Maines’ rights were violated when she was forced to use a unisex bathroom. On, Amy Calder’s Oct. 5 story about New York Times reporter James Risen’s speech at Colby College went viral as Risen urged “journalists to fight back or become irrelevant” when protecting sources.

The story about Risen — which was shared, tweeted, retweeted and “liked” across the Internet — just edged out Rachel Ohm’s March 18 story about the Norridgewock man whose gun tattoo was mistaken for a real weapon by Maine State Police. The accompanying photo by David Leaming clearly illustrated to readers why there may have been some confusion.

The No. 1 story across all of our websites was a wonderful piece curated by our Web editor, Karen Beaudoin, for — “26 of Maine’s Most Beautiful Places.” This May 13 story continues to be shared repeatedly on social media and has great “Google juice,” meaning that it ranks favorably on the powerful search engine. In fact, if you missed the piece, simply Google “top places to visit in Maine,” and there it is — right at the top.

Corbin Pratt captured our attention when his bus broke down in the South Portland Target parking lot and a stand-off with police ensued. He also captured the spot of most viewed video across our websites. Susan Kimball and Greg Rec produced a widely shared video that told the story about the nomad’s trek across the country in a broken-down school bus he purchased on Craigslist. Google “Corbin Pratt” if you missed it.

When looking at the analytics report of the top words searched for on our two sites, “obituaries” is far and away at the top of the list. On, the next two most popular searches are “FairPoint” and “USM,” showing readers’ continued interest in these two important local stories. On, readers are most often searching for “Police Log” and “Riverview.”

Our busiest day online, as you might expect, was Election Day 2014. It ranked as the third-highest traffic day in our online history. Only Election Day 2010 and the topless parade in Portland in 2010 stand ahead of Election Day 2014 in terms of overall site traffic.

Special thanks to our analytics ace, Chad Gilley, for providing me with these digital facts.

We look forward to capturing your attention, stirring your emotions and delighting you with the unexpected on all of the platforms on which we publish our exceptional journalism. Best wishes from all of us at MaineToday Media to you and your families for a happy, healthy 2015.

Lisa DeSisto is the publisher of MaineToday Media, including the Kennebec Journal, the Morning Sentinel,  the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram and