THE Echo’s website has been hailed as one of the fastest-growing local newspaper sites in the country.
In total, www.sunderlandecho.com had more than 7.4million hits in 2012, with an average of about 270,000 people a month visiting our site from around the world.
Youngster Rean Carter, who had his Samson-esque locks cut off in aid of Sunderland Royal Hospital’s children’s unit, was the most popular story, attracting 23,396 hits.
Tributes to late sports fan George Summerside and Echo journalist Ian Laws also rated highly.
Elsewhere, football featured heavily in the top tales, with the signing of Black Cats transfer target Adam Johnson bringing in 23,115 hits.
Echo Digital Editor Ross Robertson said: “Sports stories are always very popular thanks to football-mad Wearsiders’ insatiable appetite for the beautiful game.
“Black Cats-related news stories are, therefore, also always online attention-grabbers, with uproar this year over SAFC banning a pub from flying Sunderland flags, and sadness over the death of Sunderland supporter George Summerside sending visitors flocking to our website to have their say and leave their tributes respectively.
“Quirky online articles are also very popular, with friends sharing funny stories and bizarre tales on social networking sites such as Facebook and twitter.
“But while light-hearted funny stories attract thousands of visitors, we know our bread and butter lies in serious news, sport and community stories.
“We make sure we cover these as much as possible in the paper and online – with the website allowing us to keep readers up to speed with breaking news, and tell the story in different ways using video, audio and slideshows.
“It’s also touching to see that one of our top 10 stories was our coverage of the sad death of our Ian Laws, with well-wishers from around the world sending their messages of support to his family and colleagues via our website.
Ross said the coming year is set to be an exciting one, with plans to launch a new-look website.
“We’re constantly looking to improve our presence so people can keep up to speed with all the news from Sunderland and Durham from their computers, phones and tablets.
“We launched our free Sunderland Echo football app for smartphones in the spring, and our Sunderland Echo app for iPad, Kindle Fire and Android tablet apps was launched in time for Christmas.
“We’re also planning to launch a new-look website in 2013 to give visitors to sunderlandecho.com a better experience.”