It’s been one heckuva year.

We launched NEXTpittsburgh in early March of 2014 and in ten months published more than 1200 stories on the people driving change in the region and the cool and innovative things happening here. In the process, we attracted nearly 1.5 million page views on our site and, in December alone, had more than 157,000 unique monthly visitors. (And we would personally like to thank every one of you!)

As we look back at our most popular stories of the year, bear in mind we have a lot more readers now than we did earlier this year so more recent stories have the edge. But there is one notable exception: our debut issue included this article on Top 10 restaurants to eat with kids–without a kids’ menu. It was well read then and still is now. You can find it in the Kidsburgh section of NEXT and we suggest you bookmark it for a handy guide next time you’re looking for a good dining spot that everyone in the family will enjoy.

Speaking of guides, we published many to help you better navigate our city and we are have collected them all in one easy location. Look for Guides to Pittsburgh in our main menu which includes such stories as this one that made the best read list: 7 best serious pizzas in Pittsburgh. What is serious pizza? We’re talking dough that takes three days to rise and tomatoes imported from Italy–in other words, pizza as art form or close to it. This is not your everyday favorite pizza list, a point some commenters missed. That will come later, promise.

Another best of guide that readers ate up was Top places for hamburgers in Pittsburgh which was followed closely by the Top Barbecue  places in town and Best Vegetarian. Do you see a pattern here?

One of the best burgers is at Over the Bar Café. Photo by Brian Cohen.
One of the best burgers is at Over the Bar Café. Photo by Brian Cohen.

Topping those stories was this two-part article, a quintessential NEXT story–we are proud to say–on why Pittsburgh is increasingly on the national radar: 4 reasons why Pittsburgh is becoming a Buzz City.

Another top story that speaks to the heart of our mission at NEXT was 5 people making Pittsburgh more livable for all. It also speaks well of our readership that this was the top story for two weeks running and one of our best read ever. (It was a favorite of ours, too, and inspired a series. Look for more soon!)

Early on, in June, our top feature to date was What the new wave of leadership means to Pittsburgh, a good indicator of how engaged our readers are with our city.

From our Business + Tech news section, where we write about innovation on all fronts, the clear favorite of the year was a recent story on the largest photo ever taken of Pittsburgh, a Gigapanoramic that is completely and irresistibly zoomable. Readers loved it and the very cool Google-inspired technology behind it that focused, literally, on a subject we all love: our highly photogenic Golden Triangle.

Baron Batch at work. Photo by Brian Cohen.
Baron Batch at work. Photo by Brian Cohen.

In our City Design news section, the best read story was about the very talented and likable Baron Batch, who also had one heckuva year. The guy was everywhere, painting and raising money and doing good. So it was no surprise that this news story about Batch and his salsa business took off–just like his new business.

We got a kick out of our top read events story: Isabella Rossellini brings green porno to Pittsburgh. That’s her clever title, not ours, but it resulted in a well-read story for, uh, whatever reason. The show, which people raved about, illuminates the mating rituals and behaviors of insects and marine life. Check it out on the Sundance channel.

From our very popular Kidsburgh section, the top story was our latest in the monthly series on Top 10 family adventures (thanks to the Midas touch of Nadine Champsi) but this feature of hers also scored big: Top 10 indoor play spaces in Pittsburgh. Even people without kids were sharing this one, with good reason.

In Pittsburgh in the News, where we report on the best stories about Pittsburgh from national publications and other sources, our #1 story was Forbes ranked Pittsburgh the number 2 smartest city in America.  In a city full of world-class universities and research centers and a great number of college grads, it’s no wonder so many smart people read that one.

The second best read from that section was What millennials love about Pittsburgh, from The Atlantic, which heaped all kinds of love on Pittsburgh this past year.

In NEXT Wave, our section on mostly nonprofit innovators, Keep Pittsburgh Dope–about Chancelor Humphrey’s website documenting Pittsburgh’s fashion scene–reigned supreme. My personal favorite? This story about Why Innovesca is the next big thing in food innovation. Here’s an amazing Pittsburgh group working on optimizing nutrients from amaranth, a nutrient-dense crop, to battle malnutrition worldwide.

Rachel Carson of Yelp.
Rachel Carson of Yelp.

On the lighter side, and as part of our Eat/Drink news, each week NEXT features a chef or restaurant owner or foodie dish about The best meal I ate last week. While we didn’t launch this until a few months ago, it was an immediate hit and this one by Rachel Carson had the biggest readership of all (not counting Adam Milliron’s current feature which might surpass it but too late for 2014).

Then there’s NEXT Up where we ask one person to tell us their schedules for the coming week. It’s an intimate look into the lives of our change makers and usually offers a few surprises such as great tips on where to eat lunch in the South Side or good parks for dog walking. Not to mention cool events to attend which was the original intent.

Todd Owens was first up back in March–since he astutely suggested this column–and the buzz on this feature has only grown each week. So it makes sense  that the best read was also one of the most recent, on Emily Slagel whose week looked like great fun.

We hope you enjoyed these stories and many more from us in 2014. If you haven’t already, why not subscribe to get your weekly fix of NEXT? It’s free thanks to our generous sponsors. We also invite you to check our site often since we publish stories daily, and then follow us on Facebook and Twitter to catch them all.

We have lots of great stories and events planned for 2015, including announcing the Innovator of the Year for 2014.

On another note, it’s hard to express how grateful we are for the outpouring of support for NEXTpittsburgh from this community from day one. Thanks to all those who helped in so many ways, including sharing our stories and spreading the word–the likes! the shares! the comments! (well most of them).

And to the many people who work to make Pittsburgh a smarter, more livable and all around better city in a myriad of ways, large and small, we salute you. And if we haven’t already, we hope to write about you soon.

Happy New Year and all the best to you in 2015!

Tracy Certo

Tracy is the founder and Editor at Large of NEXTpittsburgh which she started in March 2014 and sold in December 2020. She is passionate about making Pittsburgh a better place for all and connecting people to do the same.