12 Days of Data 2023 Day 6: Top News Stories of 2023

12 Days of Data 2023 Day 6: Top News Stories of 2023


Welcome to the 12 Days of Data 2023 Edition, our look back at the data that made marketing in 2023. We’re looking at the year that was (and oh, what a year it was, something we’ve been saying for four years straight now…) from an analytics perspective to see what insights we can take into the next year. Sit up, get your beverage of choice ready, and let’s celebrate some data and look forward to the year ahead.

Top News of 2023

2023 was a crazy news year. In fact, it’s the first year since 2016 where the number of news stories increased over the previous year. Let’s take a look at the year that was. First, we turn to news volume: how much news was there? Using Google’s GDELT news database (which powers Google News in part), we looked at the millions of news stories in 2023:

News stories by year

We see a total, year to date, of 66.7 million news stories in 2023, an increase of 16.8% over the previous year. This pace of news means that on any given day in 2023, there were a median of:

  • 198,093 news stories that day
  • 8,254 news stories that hour
  • 138 news stories that minute
  • 2.3 news stories that second

If we’re trying to stand out from the noise, we’ve got our work cut out for us with that much news. Think about that for a second – if your news hits the wire, in a literal second, 2.3 more news stories have supplanted it. That’s how fast information is pouring out of the firehose of news.

What kinds of news are we competing with?

Biggest events

Using the CAMEO codes developed first at Pennsylvania State University, we can break down the news of 2023 and the most consequential stories (rated on the Goldstein Scale). To no one’s surprise, military conflict was the biggest category of the year, first with the ongoing fight for freedom in Ukraine against Russian invasion, and then the conflict in the Middle East.

Biggest actors

War was not the only story of the year, but war and violence were in general the biggest categories by a significant margin. In the USA, 637 mass shootings killed 17,846 people, making 2023 one of the most violent years ever.

Those were the most consequential events. What about the news as a whole?

Most common events

Unlike previous years, where there was more variety in common events (rather than significant events), 2023’s data was just violent all around.

Most common actors

Finally, when we look at the actors in all the news stories, we see companies – us, marketers, businesses – at only 0.76% involvement in the total news stories, a decrease of 2.4% from 2022. Marketing and corporate communications, as a percentage of all news, lost ground in 2023.

So What?

What these numbers really tell us about the media environment today is just how much news and information is blasting at us every minute of every day. It’s astonishing to think about that volume – hundreds of news stories every minute – and to recognize the challenge before us as marketers.

Attention is the most scarce resource we could earn from our audience. Not their engagement, not their money, not their loyalty, but just getting them to pay attention at all. Consider how much time and effort companies put into promoting themselves and their products – and of that, globally, companies only make up 0.76% of news stories in 2023.

Now, as we look ahead to 2024, there are a couple of key lessons in this data. First, the amount of news stories that were serious, heavy, and polarizing news stories increased dramatically in 2023. Readers, our audiences, are paying attention to these world-changing events, and companies have to VERY carefully navigate them. The news has been flooded with companies that have taken a position and had adverse effects from doing so.

Having solid crisis communications and crisis marketing plans is absolutely essential. If you were to suspend marketing operations every time a serious event occurred, you’d never publish again. Having policies in place to guide when you should suspend marketing and when you shouldn’t is a must.

In 2024, for marketers in the USA, it will be a presidential election year. Combine politics, political advertising, and generative AI and you’ll have a media environment that will be highly toxic on a good day. Look for opportunities to provide safe spaces for your audience that act as refuges from the onslaught of toxic news, sponsored by you and very lightly commercialized, if at all.


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