I took a close look at the most-read PlasticsNews.com stories of 2015, and I found a few surprises.
Let's count down the top 20, and I'll share some of my thoughts on the stories that our readers were most interested in this year.
20) Newell Rubbermaid buying Jarden in consumer products megadeal. This story is just two weeks old, so I expect the readership is going to continue to climb for a few more weeks. PN readers love big M&A news — it impacts competitors, customers and clients — and $15.4 billion deals that involve some of the biggest names in plastics don't happen every day.
19) Parker Hannifin consolidating divisions, closing two plants. This story from our colleague Chris Sweeney at Rubber & Plastics News was a major scoop from July. He got a hold of a letter from Andy Ross, president of the company's Engineered Materials Group, that explained the changes to the group's employees. We were happy that RPN shared the scoop with us.
18) Putting plastics to work in top designs. This was a mild surprise. Roger Renstrom, our West Coast correspondent, has been writing stories for years about the plastics-related highlights in the IDSA's annual International Design Excellence Awards. I don't remember any of his previous features cracking our year-end Top 20. But considering the amount of work that he puts into tracking down all the relevant plastics-related details, and the amount of story-sharing by our friends at IDSA and in the industrial design community, it's great to see Roger's effort recognized this year.
17) Davis-Standard buys Gloucester Engineering. A mild surprise here. We were first to report the news, which was announced late on the afternoon of Sept. 4 —the Friday before the long Labor Day weekend. The surprising part is that Bill Bregar's better follow-up story on the deal, Davis-Standard to consolidate Gloucester production, retain name, didn't get the same level of readership. If you haven't seen it, now's a good time to catch up.
16) Formosa Plastics announces plans for new PP capacity in Texas. The first new polypropylene capacity in North America in quite some time was big news in July.
15) Sabic closing Pennsylvania compounding plant. This story is related to one of our top stories. (How's that for foreshadowing?)
14) Ashland to split into two public companies. News that Ashland Inc. plans to split into two publicly traded companies, one of which will include several plastics-related products, attracted a lot of attention in September. Maybe the folks at Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont were paying attention?
13) Chinese compounder Pret snaps up US recycler Wellman. PN's Nina Ying Sun had a big scoop in January, with news that Shanghai Pret Composites Co. Ltd. was acquiring one of the largest recyclers in the United States, Wellman Plastics Recycling LLC of Johnsonville, S.C., in an all cash deal. Being first with a major plastics deal is a recipe for good page views.
12) Falling oil prices push PE prices down. This is the first of two resin pricing-related stories that made our Top 20 list this year — both chronologically and in position on the countdown. Falling commodity resin prices was one of the biggest trends in the North American plastics industry in early 2015.
11) DuPont and Dow confirm 'merger of equals.' We had two big stories on the proposed Dow-DuPont merger in the same week in early December, but I'm not going to combine them because they're significantly different. This is the "second-day" story, with detail on the deal. If I did combine the number of reader clicks for the two stories, this would be our third most-read story from 2015. But for now, it's No. 11.
10) First new vinyl record presses hit the market after a 30-year break. This feature from Catherine Kavanaugh is definitely worth a read, if you missed it the first time. It's about recording artist Jack White (of the White Stripes) building a mini-factory in midtown Detroit that will actually manufacture vinyl records, using machine built by a new company in Germany, Newbilt Machinery GmbH & Co. KG. So it's an interesting story with all the plastics-specific details that our readers love. And it just made the Top 10.
9) VW finds quick plastic fix for 1.6 liter diesel engines. If you've ever wondered if people read news from trade magazine websites on Thanksgiving day, here's your answer. This story, shared by our colleague David Vink from Plastics News Europe, was posted on Nov. 26 — Thanksgiving in the United States. But we sent a news alert anyway, and the story got very heavy reader traffic over the long holiday weekend.
8) Thieves steal truck bound for NPE. Less than two weeks before NPE, and a truck with a key piece of Wittmann Battenfeld's exhibit was stolen from a locked staging area north of Daytona Beach, Fla. We we worried that this was going to be a harbinger of bad news for NPE 2015, but it turned out to be more like a hiccup. Wittmann Battenfeld recovered from the setback, and the show went on ... well, not without another glitch, but everyone seemed to think it was an excellent show.
7) Ampac Holdings to merge with Prolamina. PN's Bill Bregar covered this deal, another major acquisition involving big plastics processors.