’s Most-Read Stories of 2009

The past year was defined by the economic downturn and the overwhelming popularity of social media. So, it’s perhaps no surprise that the most-read story on dealt with data showing that shoppers highly valued consumers’ online opinions and recommendations. Gatorade’s branding face-lift (emphasis on the “Big G”) was the runner-up, with an analysis of Facebook’s dwindling popularity among the 18-24-year-old set placing third. A lawsuit over Vitaminwater’s claims, BK’s controversial “Whopper Sacrifice” push, Digg’s ability to drive traffic and the overwhelming Web numbers generated by Barack Obama’s inauguration also pulled in readers in ’09.

Here are’s most popular stories of the last year, ranked by total page views:

1. Consumers Trust Online Opinions

When it comes to trust, personal recommendations and consumer opinions posted online are most valued by consumers worldwide. So said a survey that gauged opinions from 25,000 Internet consumers. In fact, 90 percent said they trust recommendations from people they know, while 70 percent said they trusted consumer opinions posted online.

 2. Gatorade Changes Up Its Game 

PepsiCo, which had given face-lifts to many of its beverage products, attempts to up Gatorade’s game with new packaging and renamed line extensions. New iterations of Gatorade Thirst Quencher, the flagship Gatorade brand, would now sport a large letter G next to the brand’s iconic bolt.

3. Is Facebook Getting Uncool for 18-24s? 

The older teens and twentysomethings that drove Facebook’s initial popularity are using it less. And research by WPP Group’s Mindshare suggested that group is reevaluating the site’s worth as a tool for developing friendships. Others believed Facebook’s cool factor among younger users was waning.

4. CSPI Sues Coke Over Vitaminwater Claims

Suddenly, Vitaminwater didn’t look so healthy after all. At least not to the Center for Science in Public Interest and participants in the class-action lawsuit against Coca-Cola. The suit stated that the Coke-owned brand was guilty of deceptive and unsubstantiated claims. More big ad-related lawsuits involving other brands would follow in ’09.

5. BK Offers Facebook ‘Sacrifice’ 

The fast-food chain released the Whopper Sacrifice application on Facebook. The app rewarded people with a coupon for BK’s signature burger when they cull 10 friends. Each time a friend was excommunicated, the application sent a notification to the banished party via Facebook’s news feed.

6. Digg Helps Send Time’s Traffic Into Orbit

The venerable newsweekly’s Web offshoot had seen its audience balloon by 41 percent vs. last year, landing at 6.7 million unique users in July, per Nielsen Online stats. According to John Cantarella,’s general manager, some of that growth was attributable to a 164 percent increase in traffic from the social news property Digg.

7. Obama Rocks the Web 

The inauguration of President Barack Obama was a Web video event like no other. On Jan. 20, Live served more than 26.9 million live video streams globally and 36.7 million streams overall. According to CNN’s internal data, that figure was more than five times the previous record of 5.3 million live streams.

8. VW in Play; Crispin Won’t Defend 

Volkswagen of America placed its account in review and invited lead agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky, a unit of MDC Partners, to defend. Crispin said it would not participate. VW ultimately shifted chores on the $200 million-plus business to Interpublic Group’s Deutsch. The review was one of the most closely followed of the year.

9. Boomers Caught in Squeeze Play

For a generation that has substituted rising home equity and stock prices for personal savings, the current economic meltdown was psychologically wrenching after a quarter century of unquestioned prosperity. You have a group of shell-shocked consumers who are reconsidering long-held spending habits.