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2017: The strange, scary and superlative, in 11 charts

It wasn’t just you. A lot changed.

Rani Molla is a senior correspondent at Vox and has been focusing her reporting on the future of work. She has covered business and technology for more than a decade — often in charts — including at Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal.

A lot has happened this year, some of it strange, some of it scary, all of it very 2017. At least as far as it can be measured and charted, we’ve attempted to encapsulate the uniqueness of this year through graphics.

1. All Trump, all the time

If it felt like President Trump dominated the news cycle this year, you’re right. News outlets consistently published more articles and, in turn, received a bigger share of page views for pieces about Trump than any other major topic we searched, according to Insights, a tool that measures how much attention articles receive across hundreds of major global publishers.

Articles that mentioned Trump had higher readership than those that covered sexual harassment, the heroin and opioid epidemic, net neutrality, NFL protests, Uber, AI and the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar. Briefly, before Hurricane Irma, during the eclipse and following the Las Vegas mass shooting, did those topics oust Trump as the most-read. Overall, in 2017 articles mentioning Trump received 5 percent of all page views in’s network.

2. The Weinstein effect

Interest in the term “sexual harassment” hit a record high this month as a share of all Google searches. Exceptional reporting on Harvey Weinstein’s years of sexual harassment triggered a watershed moment for conversation on the topic.

All of a sudden, powerful men were being held accountable for hurting women and dozens of high profile sexual abusers were ejected from their jobs. Buoyed by these results and by social media campaigns like #metoo, women came out in droves to fight — and read about — sexual harassment.

3. The “failing” New York Times has the last laugh

The New York Times can thank President Trump for its record number of new digital subscriptions this year. The first quarter of 2017 was the Gray Lady’s biggest ever, with 308,000 additional digital news subscribers.

In the first three quarters, it had added over 500,000 new subscribers — already more than last year. The move from ad-based to subscription-based revenue has helped the Times save itself.

4. Uber’s improbably high executive turnover

Uber saw lots of executive turnover this year, amid a series of PR nightmares, from corporate espionage to sexual misconduct.

Uber executive turnover

Uber’s drama led to a bunch of high-profile exits from the ride-sharing company, including the notoriously combative co-founder Travis Kalanick. It also expedited the search for qualified executives to fill key, new roles.

5. Digital beat the television star

It’s been a long time coming, but digital finally beat TV ad spending in 2017.

Digital ad spending reached $209 billion worldwide — 41 percent of the market — in 2017, while TV brought in $178 billion — 35 percent of the market. TV ads are still much more expensive than digital but the shift in overall spending shows that TV has lost its stranglehold on the ad industry.

6. Bitcoin mania took over the world

This year, bitcoin prices went nuts. The cryptocurrency surged to over $19,000 apiece this month — nearly 20 times its value at the beginning of the year.

The high price tag made it seem like everyone either bought or regretted not buying bitcoin, which is currently worth less than $12,000.

7. SoftBank ate Silicon Valley

Japan’s SoftBank was involved in more than half of the top 10 biggest investments in VC-backed startups this year.

Biggest equity investments to VC-backed startups in 2017

Led by Recode 100 honoree Masayoshi Son, SoftBank changed the landscape of venture capital this year. Its mammoth $100 billion Vision Fund made it both a hero (to startups) and a villain (to other venture capitalists).

8. Self-driving cars steered toward reality

2017 was the year that driverless cars made the leap from far-out concept to something closer to reality.

The leader in driverless tech, Google’s Waymo hit four million autonomous miles driven on public roads this year. Some two million of those miles were logged in 2017 — the same amount recorded in the previous seven years.

Autonomous miles driven in Waymo cars

The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow for the testing and commercialization of driverless cars, and a similar bill has been marked up by the Senate.

9. Fidget spinners had a minute

Fidget spinners, a simple toy that rotates on a ball bearing, came and went as a cultural sensation.

Interest in fidget spinners peaked in April in the U.S. and in May worldwide, according to Google searches, and teachers everywhere breathed a sigh of relief.

10. Instagram cloned its way to success

Instagram launched its Snapchat copycat Stories in the summer of 2016. By early 2017 Stories had surpassed Snapchat in daily active users.

Instagram versus snapchat stories

As of their last reports, Instagram Stories has a user base that’s more than 100 million people larger than Snapchat’s entire user base, which means Instagram’s version is more popular than the original.

11. “Despacito” made streaming history

Released in January, Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” became the most-streamed music video of all time by July — in record time.

Chart of Despacito views over time YouTube

The Spanish-language reggaeton song, featuring Daddy Yankee and set in Puerto Rico, has since blown far past the competition. Already this year it’s received more than 4.5 billion views on YouTube, blowing away one-time records like PSY’s “Gangnam Style” and Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again.”

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