I’ve only recently noticed media outlets like the Sydney Morning Herald employing this ‘live readers’ feature. I love it. It’s one thing to see a current article get a lot of attention, or a large number of shares on Facebook, but to get this precise social proof is really valuable as it helps visualise a community that might otherwise be hard to articulate.
Quora has a similar feature wherein users can see the ‘status’ of other users answering questions. It not only breathes a bit of life into the experience but is actually truer to the makeup of social media, or the internet itself. There’s a bunch of people all over the world looking at stuff, typing stuff, clicking stuff, why doesn’t it look that way?
It’s not new (think Myspace’s online now gif, but I think it’s under-utilised in areas outside of social networks.
Another interesting feature might be ‘number of backlinks’ directing towards any given article.