2018: The Year in Review with Microsoft News

Jan 7, 2019   |   Jeri Condit, Managing Editor, Microsoft News Blog

© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

As we embark on a new journey into 2019, Microsoft News reflects on 2018, a year filled with inspiring, surprising, and often heartbreaking news that you, our worldwide readers, consumed with passion. You spent over 2.5 billion hours reading with us during the year and we thank you for your readership and your ongoing interest in our world. We programmed trusted news from the world’s best journalists in more than 140 countries and 28 languages, keeping you plugged into the events of the day and information relevant to your individual lives.

As we reviewed the stories that most captured your attention and where you spent your digital news reading time in 2018, we noticed four primary things:

  1. You care deeply about others and about stories that prove out the good and just in humanity.
  2. You love the story behind the main story, seeking out context and analysis of major news events for a well-rounded view of our world.
  3. You expect and engage in timely stories with accurate reporting on the events of each day.
  4. You love the varied perspectives and voices from many different publications, engaging in stories from thousands of brands this year.

As we roll through the themes and stories that ranked in the top 200 most-read around the world, you’ll see what we mean. Hold on to your hat as we take a spin through 2018…

The Forces of Nature

2018 reminded us that the natural forces around us ultimately have the power to sustain us or to bring us humbly to our knees. Weather-related disasters surfaced repeatedly through the year in the form of hurricanes, tsunamis, typhoons, hail storms, wildfires, tornadoes and winter storms around the world.

In late February and early March, Ireland was hit by an unseasonal bout of extreme weather. The entire country shut down for several days as a red weather warning forecasted heavy accumulations of snow and ice.

During the months of July and August, on the West Coast of the U.S., the Mendocino Complex and Carr wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of acres of land, flattened homes and businesses, and devastated lives. The death toll reached 86 and over 19,000 homes were destroyed. Around the country and world, organizations and individuals rallied to raise funds for victims of the fires. As Microsoft News readers, your compassion was apparent as you contributed just over half a million dollars to these efforts.

© Associated PressResidents of North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and many other U.S. eastern seaboard states endured the floodwaters and winds as Hurricane Florence, made  landfall on Sept 14, 2018. The third most powerful hurricane to hit the U.S mainland, Hurricane Michael, arrived in October. The nation watched as many attempted to flee the area, in spite of thousands of cancelled flights. Once again, you were moved to help via MSN Causes, donating almost half a million dollars for relief efforts.

Halfway around the world, in late September, the coastal area of Palu, Indonesia turned from a beautiful seaside area to piles of rubble and debris. More than 1,500 people lost their lives as a 7.5 magnitude earthquake and tsunami struck the area without warning.

Soon to follow in November, Typhoon Mangkhut devastated portions of Philippines, Guam, and South China, triggering landslides and causing more than 134 fatalities.

In New Zealand, residents referred to the year’s lash of heavy storms as ‘stormageddon,’ bringing multiple several heavy storms in March, May, and September, causing havoc in the region with high winds, flooding and massive waves in the Southern Ocean.

Microsoft News responded with timely coverage of each developing story, severe weather and hurricane trackers and earthquake alert maps to keep you in the know.

Care for Self & Compassion for Others

Throughout the year, you demonstrated a deep and consistent interest in 2018 around stories of hope, compassion, and inclusion. You also engaged heavily in stories to improve your lives, both from a physical perspective and in relationships with others.

The 3rd most read story of the year in the U.S. helped us improve our interpersonal relationships with others, describing key attributes of emotional intelligence. You also loved this story describing the elements that make up a person’s sense of self and how to realize your true dreams based on the research of Cornell psychologists. Care of self extended to the physical realm as well, as you read about the subtle signs of an unhealthy heart and how allowing sunlight in our homes helps to kill bacteria that live in dust and decrease the possibility of respiratory issues.

In the U.S., while you were certainly interested to learn about the winner of $1.5 billion jackpot (wow!) for the Mega Millions jackpot in October, your readership of the story of a brave police officer who jumped off an overpass to save a boy’s life in White Plains, NY saw engagement of more than five times that of the former.

© Lillian Suwanrumpha/AFP/Getty Images Similarly, your clicks demonstrated a huge interest in the plight of the young boys stranded with their soccer coach in a Thai cave and their eventual rescue as well as the crisis in Mexico surrounding missing children and the country’s growing murder rates. You were moved to donate over $17,000 toward recovery efforts for missing children around the world via our MSN Causes campaign.

Our readers in the Netherlands, surged in support of former Olympic champion Maarten van der Weijden as he set out to swim 125 to raise money for cancer research. After swimming 101 miles and extreme exhaustion set in, he was forced to abandon his goal, yet he raised $5 million euros for the cause.

Your interest in inclusion and authentic expression of self was evidenced by your clicks into coverage of Lady Gaga’s moving speech about sexual abuse and the impact of women’s voices at the ELLE Women in Hollywood event.

Halfway around the world, our readers in Saudi Arabia engaged heavily in this story, which describes a near future in which women will be allowed to drive in that country.

Another top story of the year (ranked in the top 65) described the kindness of a stranger as they helped a wheelchair bound widow toss a rose into a lake in memory of her husband.

Tribute to Those Lost

As we said goodbye to 2018, we also paid tribute to the many we loved and lost this year. As each story broke, we were overwhelmed and touched by the outpouring of compassion demonstrated on social media and via your readership.

Throughout the year, we were saddened and horrified as multiple mass shootings unfolded in U.S. schools, churches, businesses, and bars. You sought to understand the reasons behind these terrible events and read about gun legislation and enforcement, as well as mental health issues related to these events.

© Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images In February, 17 were taken from us at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In response, students around the country participated in March for our Lives to protest gun violence. Then in May, a shooting occurred at the Santa Fe High School, claiming 10 lives.

Soon to follow in June, five were killed in the Capital Gazette building in Maryland. In late 2018, gun violence in Pittsburgh and Thousand Oaks, CA claimed another 23 victims. Many have turned their grief into activism, evidenced by the testimony of this Parkland shooting survivor.

Related to gun violence, our most-read story of the year focused on the ironic news that MGM had filed federal lawsuits against more than 1,000 victims and relatives of the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas in an effort to deter any legal action from these individuals.

Entertainment lovers around the world mourned the loss of several talents in 2018. Among those lost, U.S. readers were most interested in this story about the death of Jackson Odell (our 2nd most read story of the year) and remembered the monumental musical career of Aretha Franklin with this piece.

Our readers in Sweden reeled from the news of DJ Tim ‘Avicii’ Bergling’s death. Known as one of this generation’s true superstars, his mark was made with hits like “Levels,” “Wake Me Up,” and “Hey Brother.” International readers sought understanding of the sad event and the depression that had plagued this icon.

A master of storytelling and gifted chef, Anthony Bourdain, who died in 2108, will be remembered for his ability to bring diverse cultures together. Readers were drawn to a New York Times story revealing the toxicology report from his death (ranked in the top 25 U.S. stories of the year).

The death of Jamal Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist, captured the world’s attention in October, as he attempted to secure paperwork from the Saudi Consulate in Turkey for a marriage that would tragically never take place. In the U.S, you engaged with this story, which reported the CIAs investigation and findings, while one of the most-read stories of the year in Saudi Arabia came from the Saudi Public Prosecution announcing the details of what happened inside the consulate, the charge of 11 people, and the sentence of the death penalty to five involved.

John McCain III, a U.S. politician and military officer was also laid to rest in August. The story that most attracted you centered on John McCain’s Last Message for Donald Trump, describing the posthumous messaging McCain directed at the White House.

© Drew Angerer/Getty Images On November 30, the world learned of the passing of George Bush, the 41st president of the United States; you engaged with hundreds of stories describing his legacy as a politician, father, and husband in the days that followed. Microsoft News provided live coverage of the ceremonies that took place in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. Along the 70-mile train route to College Station, Texas, where Bush would be laid to rest, thousands lined the tracks, waving flags and taking pictures.

In India, the top three stories of 2018 centered on the tragic loss of Bollywood star Sridevi on February 24. Controversy surrounding her drowning engaged international readers, including this story about Sridevi’s sister.

Also in India, a horrible turn of events at the Dussehra festival in Amristar in October led to the death of 61 people as a speeding train ploughed through the area where festival goers stood. Indian Railways denied culpability. You were most interested to understand more about the train driver’s plea of innocence.

In June of 2018, the fashion world lost Kate Spade, the designer and businesswoman who created Kate Spade of New York, marketing high quality, stylish handbags and accessories. This story, describing the controversy around Spade’s sister’s claim of her awareness of Spade’s mental illness issues, was the 9th top story of the year.

Crime & Politics

While the list of notable stories featuring politics or crime from around the world in 2018 was extensive, here’s a recap of a selection of the most-read stories that captured your attention.

© Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERSIn U.S., the emotionally charged day of September 27 will not soon be forgotten as a conflicted Christine Blasey Ford delivered testimony, an angry Kavanaugh responded, and Mark Judge’s reaction to Blasey’s testimony (our 43th most-read story of the year in the U.S.) is considered by the Kavanaugh hearing committee. Kavanaugh was sworn in as the 114th Justice of the Supreme Court on October 6, 2018.

In similar themes involving crimes of sexual assault and abuse, readers tracked the sentencing of Bill Cosby and statements by celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Sandra Bullock regarding the charges against Harvey Weinstein, who faces trial in 2019.  In Brazil, we saw hundreds come forward with complaints of sexual abuse by the Joao Teixeira de Faria, known as a faith healer and often referred to as ‘John of God.’

The nation tracked the developments of missing student Molly Tibbetts, as authorities and citizens search for her, and many donated funds to help the search efforts underway. Just over a month after she was reported missing, this story (4rd most-read of the year) released the sad news that she had been found dead.

In U.S. politics, an estimated 113 million voters turned out for the 2018 mid-term elections and readers gravitated to pre-election coverage like Top Senate Seats Most Likely to Flip from The Hill, and analysis of what the Democratic party will do with their newly established control of the House of Representatives.

News surrounding U.S. President Trump topped the charts with regard to political readership in Canada with stories like this. In the U.S., readers were most interested in this story behind the story in what Trump said as he walked offstage (ranked 44th most-read story of the year) at the G-20 Summit, as well as his response to Michelle Obama’s statements regarding the President’s promotion of the ‘birther movement.’

In June, the world watched as Trump and North Korea’s Kim shook hands at the historic Summit in Singapore in an effort to establish a path toward peace. After a year of tension, name-calling, antagonism and an initial cancellation by Trump, the two leaders emerged with claims of hope for complete denuclearization. Readers in Canada were drawn to this ancillary story about the North Korean leader’s spending habits and his life of luxury.

In a radical political change in Brazil, the populist and far-right Jair Bolsonaro wins the Presidency. For a country devastated by rising crime and political turmoil, Bolsonaro presented himself successfully as the answer to the status quo. Characterized as an extremist leader by some, controversy surrounds the leader due to his activities involving women and afro-descendants and his belief in a military dictatorship.

Promising to change the political landscape of Mexico and fight existing corruption, President Obrador was elected on July 1, 2018. Readers in Latin America examined the reason behind a term that will fall short of 6 years. This recent reform was made to assist the transition of one administration to the next.

In December 2018, approximately 3.6 million government employees in India received a year-end surprise as Union Finance Minister announced a revamp of the National Pension System which will increase the governments matching of pension fund contributions by 4%.

Controversy and protests plagued French politics in 2018, as evidenced by this popular story about President Macron’s proposed tax hikes on fuel, then his cancelation of same. Readers in France were highly engaged with this story describing the gas hike cancellation and the push-and-pull dynamics between President Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.

In Canada, you were highly engaged in this market drop prediction by Ron Paul in July of 2018 and while in the U.S., you gravitated to 2019’s new tax brackets.

Celebs and Personalities

This comes as no surprise; the lives of celebrities and well-known personalities around the world continue to fascinate us. Here are a few stories that rose to the top, as evidenced by your clicks.

© PA Whether you followed every minute of the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May, or raised an eyebrow as Markle tried to hold Prince Harry’s hand (ranked 10th in the top stories of the year) at the Young Leaders Reception at Buckingham Palace, U.S. readers followed along in more than 2,300 stories covering the Royals and their lives. You wanted to know more about Kate and Meghan’s relationship and readers in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand reveled in these photos as the couple visited Dublin in July. It’s clear this fascination is a national pastime, no matter where you live.

In France, readers followed this top story about actress Sophie Marceau and her son’s struggle with mental illness. As France’s ‘little darling,’ Marceau candidly shared her heartbreak over her son’s condition.

Japanese readers were highly interested in developments surrounding Kei Komuro’s mother, soon to be the mother-in-law of Japanese princess Mako. The report of her repeated visits to the Imperial Palace to explain her financial difficulties was one of the top stories of the year in Japan. Another top story in Japan reflected the reactions of high school girls to the arrest of Japanese pop icon, Tatsuya Yamaguchi and to the circumstances surrounding that incident.

Readers in the UK followed the tumultuous year of TV superstar Ant McParlin as he struggled with alcohol addiction and marital issues in 2018. Editors who tracked these developing stories were compelled to also offer resources on substance addiction problems and information to help others who might struggle with similar issues.

The Games, and the Stories Behind the Games

What we learned through the year in sports was that national pride runs deep through victories as well as defeats. While losses are never easy, the milestones along the path to a title can fuel strong surges in patriotism. Equally apparent were the waves of national shame that swelled in countries around the world as breaking news emerged around scandalous behaviors.

The soccer world won’t soon forget t© Alexander Fedorovhe 2018 FIFA World Cup. Readers worldwide were heavily engaged in staying standings, highlights, and behind-the-scenes stories. While the French squad ultimately took the trophy, national pride ran high in countries like Russia as their squad advanced to the quarter-finals. Our editors in Germany report that the countdown to the event was the most-watched sport in history for German-speaking readers.  While England had low expectations for success in the games, this live blog became the most-read story of 2018 in the UK recounting the action as Gareth Southgate’s squad achieved a first semi-final appearance in 28 years, only the 3rd in English history.

On the other end of the spectrum, national pride took a hit in Australia this year, as evidenced by this top performing article, which pointed out the shameful acts of several of the country’s sporting heroes. A ball-tampering scandal began a deluge of articles in 2018 about sportsmanship and honor.

The 2018 Winter Olympics marked a diplomatic breakthrough between North and South Korea as they marched under a united flag. In Japan, you engaged heavily with news of Yuzura Hanyu’s gold medal in the free skate competition, as well as the ancillary story about the record-breaking ski jumper Sara Takanashi and her $200K Mercedes motivator.

In the U.S., you were tuned in to the win of the Super Bowl LII by the Philadelphia Eagles, but were engaged at a higher level in news surrounding the controversy of players who’d taken a knee for equality and performers like Maroon 5, Rhianna and Pink, who turned down halftime appearance opportunities as a result. Similarly, when the USA women’s gymnastics team won the team title at the world championships in Doha, Qatar, U.S. readers were most interested in this top story (ranked 21st in most-read) describing the teal colored leotard worn by Simone Biles in support of survivors of sexual abuse.

Looking Forward

We’ll be with you into the many twists and turns of 2019, exploring the landscape of our culture, realizing our personal dreams and goals, and finding a deeper understanding of who we are as a world and what we aspire to be.

Be sure to check back with us here during the coming months for announcements about new tools and experiences that we think you’ll love. For a quick roundup of our daily top stories, delivered to you via email, sign up for MSN Today.