Brittany Maynard Story Leads to Record Digital Traffic for People

Heart-Wrenching Story Captured Public's Attention

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Brittany Maynard on the cover of People.
Brittany Maynard on the cover of People.

The story of Brittany Maynard has captured the public's attention. Six months ago, Ms. Maynard, a 29-year-old newlywed, was diagnosed with brain cancer and given six months to live. She decided to end her life by taking a fatal dose of barbituates instead of suffering through the course of the illness.

Ms. Maynard carried through with her plan on Saturday, dying while surrounded by family and friends.

After news of her death spread on Sunday, Ms. Maynard became the most-searched topic on Google as well as a trending topic on Twitter. An Oct. 6 YouTube video of Ms. Maynard explaining her decision has attracted more than 11 million views. Media outlets have rushed to tell the final chapter of her story, while giving voice to people and groups who strongly oppose her decision. Those voices have echoed across social media in the days since.

People magazine was at the center of the story. The magazine, which is owned by Time Inc., broke Ms. Maynard's story on Oct. 6 with an exclusive interview. And it continued to report with cooperation from Ms. Maynard and her family in the weeks that followed.

The story of her death published on on Sunday has garnered more than 16.1 million unique visitors, according to a People spokeswoman, who cited internal figures. It's the largest digital audience ever for a story on and for any Time Inc. brand, which includes Sports Illustrated, Time, Fortune and InStyle magazines, the spokeswoman added.

It has also doubled the number of visitors to's 2008 story on Brad and Angelina Jolie Pitts' twins, which had been the highest recorded article on

And the story has so far reached nearly 54 million people on Facebook, by far the most of any People article, according to a spokeswoman for the magazine. There are ads adjacent to the story both in print and online, but they were not sold specifically against the content.

"People is honored to have been able to tell Brittany Maynard's story, and our thoughts and prayers are with her family," Jess Cagle, editorial director of People and Entertainment Weekly, said in an email. "Brittany was a woman of courage and dignity, and those are the qualities she will be remembered for."

Ms. Maynard brought her story to People through a representative from Compassion and Choices, a nonprofit organization that advocates for people's rights to end their own lives.

"We had worked before with staff writer Nicole Weisenee Egan on the death-with-dignity issue," Sean Crowley, media relations manager for Compassion and Choices, said in an email. "And we value People's reputation for handling sensitive, important topics and providing them a platform for national discourse."

Ms. Weisenee Egan wrote an essay for this week's issue of People sharing what she has learned from Ms. Maynard over the last month. "Not only did she raise my awareness, she also showed me she knew how to live long before she knew she was dying," Ms. Weisenee Egan wrote.

Another macabre topic, the death of Robin Williams, which was the cover of People's Aug. 25 issue, was the magazine's best-selling issue of the year so far, Time Inc. CEO Joe Ripp told investors this week.

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