Stories go viral, to use an old term that’s less appealing by the week, for different reasons. Big events leave people hungry for hot takes. There’s celebrity news. Oddly evocative news.
We recently watched a Monitor essay by the wonderful Murr Brewster ring up 780,000 page views in its first week online. That’s a very eye-catching number for us.
Maybe you read Murr’s first-person story about a skilled fence builder she’d coaxed out of retirement with a job he saw as being too hard for anyone else to do right. “A simple piece,” Murr says.
It’s also great storytelling. A chunk of its reach came via Google Discover, which “searches the web for ... engaging and interesting content ... likely to provide a good user experience.” Murr chortles at that during a call from her home in the Pacific Northwest.
“That’s me,” she crows. “I’m a ‘content provider’!”
Besides the numbers, the biggest for Murr since her story about knitting rippled through a community of hobbyists, her essay brought heartfelt responses. Murr cites an email in which a grateful reader went on for 1,300 words “about how important it was to do a good job at a fair price, and how nobody does that anymore.”
Had she tapped into a universal interest in integrity?
“I didn’t set out to highlight that,” says Murr, “but that is absolutely the theme.”
Readers asked Murr for fence builder recommendations. For a follow-up on how to build a fence properly. Some already had what they needed. One comment to the Monitor: “It is a pleasure, in this world of self-destruction and evil, to read a nice story about a nice man.”
“Perspective and joy show up in an awful lot of my pieces,” says Murr. “People are engineering distrust, and we’re all suffering for it. A little joy and a little hope is good for them.”