Americans Love Thinking About Miley Cyrus


Internet clicks are a funny thing. None of us really keep count of them. We don’t tally how much time we spend checking out different topics whether it be news or entertainment or…other. It’s just not something that we save any head space for. When we’re on the internet by ourselves we simply click what we’re interested in and forget about it unless it warrants a bookmark. Well, luckily New York Magazine has run an article that did keep score via Outbrain which collects traffic data from sites like “CNN, Fox News and ESPN.” These are huge sites that are ubiquitous in the internet’s daily life. Their traffic tells the truth.

On any given day, 87 percent of Americans who browse the web will view a page with an Outbrain module, explains the company’s vice-president of global marketing. They collect traffic data from every site in their network, which they use in a variety of algorithms to generate recommendations.

Want to know how Americans did when Miley Cyrus was competing with news about possible military strikes in Syria that many analysts think could lead to all out sectarian warfare in the Middle East? Sure you do. We all love to be graded.

In the three days surrounding Miley’s VMA performance and the Obama administration signaling its willingness to bomb Syria, Outbrain’s network generated 8,104 stories about the former and 19,568 about the latter. The day after the VMAs, Miley Cyrus stories accounted for 12 percent of total U.S. page views, while Syria stories accounted for 1 percent.

Interest in the starlet significantly outpaced Syria in England, Australia, France, Germany, and every other nation in Outbrain’s analysis — except Israel and Russia. Globally, Miley Cyrus stories generated eight times as many page views as Syria did in the days surrounding the VMAs.

A higher percentage of people in Australia read about Syria during those three days than in the entire United States. Keep in mind that Australia’s entire population is just a bit more than New York State’s and no Australian will be going to war at all and had never said they’d join in any attack against Syria.

The article goes on to point out that after the three day period one of the most popular things to do was make fun of how much Americans loved thinking and reading about Miley Cyrus which, obviously, is just another form of thinking and reading about Miley Cyrus.

The Onion told Slate’s Farhad Manjoo that its best traffic day to date coincided with a widely shared parody attributed to a CNN manager, entitled “Let Me Explain Why Miley Cyrus’ VMA Performance Was Our Top Story This Morning.” Laughing at those who read about Miley Cyrus is America’s second-favorite pastime, right after reading about Miley Cyrus.

Miley Cyrus/VMAs
Miley Cyrus/VMAs

And so it goes. During those heady 2013 VMA days Thought Catalog was publishing a bit of both, some Syria and some Miley. The demand was crazy. In fact, by the end of day two we just put up five Miley articles complete with gifs on the front page. Thought Catalog has a sense of humor too. But I wondered how many clicks Miley got in comparison to news articles on Syria. Now, full disclosure, I read about Miley too although I did all my reading here. I’m loyal like that. I also read lists and I just want to say that before I show you the numbers. Ready? Here we go.

The six Thought Catalog articles written on or after the day of the VMAs garnered a total of 184,863 hits. There were three articles on Syria that were written. They totaled/totaled 3,131 hits…the ratio on Thought Catalog is worse than on CNN or Fox. Even if I double the number on the Syria articles so it’s 6 vs 6 it’s still an absolute blowout. Now granted, Thought Catalog isn’t primarily a news site but people click what they’re interested in. They don’t click things that they don’t care about it. The click is raw truth.

Now you may be thinking at this point that the writing on those Syria articles simply wasn’t any good and you could well be right (I wrote them and I’m no Terry Pratchett) but that is absolutely immaterial. You can’t determine whether the writing in an article is bad until you click it and no one clicks anything they don’t want to click. See? Miley wins and she wins big.


The no brainer reveal of this article is that we all know that this happens. We all suspect that this is the case but we pretend it might not be. Since the clicks aren’t usually presented to us the way New York Magazine has done we can pretend that Americans actually seek to be informed but I’m not convinced that’s the case. What I am convinced of is that it should be the case. And yet, I hear constant complaining about how people wish the mainstream news would report important things to us, and yet…

I wrote an article on August 30th entitled “Here Is Miley Cyrus’s Post-VMA Sextape” which was a total bait and switch to get people’s attention. I felt bad about it, I did. I ask the opinions of my colleagues. They said do it and I did. Do you want to know how many clicks it got? Well, you’re still reading so I’ll assume you do. It got 20,863 and this was a few days after the story had started to wane. Had Thought Catalog published it the day after it could well have gotten over 40,000 hits. That’s how badly people wanted to see Miley.

So, when I read in the Disqus comments by some commenters (oh DO I read them) that Thought Catalog doesn’t publish anything of substance anymore it bothers me and I don’t think I’m alone. Because I look at the heartfelt blogs that go ignored, the ideas on how to live a better life or question better or just know what’s going on in the world around you and I have to ask what these people are reading? You see, I have the numbers and I know the clicks and the clicks don’t lie. They’re reading about Miley the goddess, Miley the slut, Miley the misunderstood, and Miley the empowered. So much Miley, everywhere. What we say is one thing. What we do is another.

But there’s one thing that’s very clear in all of this. We love you, Miley. Can we hate you? Can we be you? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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