I have been getting a series of emails from the ACS journals I follow the most showing the Most Read articles of 2011. I found the one from Journal of Organic Chemistry most interesting.
While I think of JOC as the place for total synthesis and synthetic methodology, there is only one total synthesis in the list (Total Synthesis of Iejimalide B), although there is also a more philosophical discussion of total synthesis by Phil Baran. The majority of articles are of a more generally useful nature, such as a list of chemical shifts for NMR reagents (I have the table taped up in my office), a look at the effective drying of solvents and the evergreen article on flash chromatography by Clark Still.
The synthetic methods have a greater showing, with the ubiquitous reduction amination, hypervalent iodine and trifluoromethylation via copper catalysis. In fact there is another copper catalyzed reaction (an Ullman coupling) but no palladium cross coupling. Is palladium just another discarded reagent now?
The last article that made the list is an oddity, as it is the description of the NanoPutians, more or less a paper describing the drawing of stick figures (in mono-, di- and polymeric forms, no less) with chemical structures.
I suppose the take away here is that if you want your paper widely read, it needs to be practical and generally useful no matter the kind of project your readers are working on. Though that Still’s 1978 paper is still making the “top 10 most read in 2011” is very impressive.