Which tech start-ups got the most ink in 2014?

Source: Start Up Bus | Facebook

As 2014 wraps up, there's one thing we can agree on: It was a wild year for tech start-ups.

Trends included the sharing economy, crowdfunding, wearables, mobile payments, the enterprise space with big data and flash storage. And investors chased valuations into the stratosphere. Through the first three quarters of 2014, venture capitalists poured more money into U.S. start-ups than in any full year since 2001, according to the National Venture Capital Association.

And we had controversy. Plenty of juicy controversy.

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There have been numerous lists showing start-ups that raised the most cash, while other upstarts joined the billion-dollar club. So we at CNBC.com decided to take a different approach. We asked this question: Which tech start-ups got the most ink in 2014—in terms of just a passing mention, as well as more intense coverage?

We got some help from AirPR, a San Francisco-based start-up that provides data and analytics to public relations professionals.

AirPR compiled two lists: The first scanned the company's vast database of English-language articles from across the globe to determine which start-ups, founded after 1999, got the most mentions.

For the second list, AirPR put its algorithms to work to find stories that dug a little deeper and were about start-ups—instead of just references, indicating which companies got the most meaningful coverage. Here's the rundown of the two lists based on AirPR analysis.

10 tech start-ups that received the most press mentions in 2014

  1. Pinterest
  2. Kickstarter
  3. Medium
  4. Path
  5. Dropbox
  6. Spotify
  7. Uber
  8. Fab
  9. Snapchat
  10. Etsy

While the online bulletin board Pinterest has long been a Silicon Valley darling—valued at $1.5 billion way back in mid-2012—it was only the eighth most-popular subject of stories among start-ups.

Pinterest's name pops up with frequency because it's become among the most trafficked sites in the world, and was the 41st most popular U.S. web property in March, according to comScore. Pinterest is a favored place consumers turn to see what's fashionable, to find a great salad recipe or to discover new ways to decorate kids' bedrooms.

The New York Times cooking site partnered with Pinterest in November, putting a group of food editors from the newspaper in charge of pinning their favorite recipes.

The power of Pinterest
The power of Pinterest   

A similar dynamic is true of Kickstarter. Since its launch in 2009, the crowdfunding site has been the spot where 76,000 projects have raised money and more than $1 billion has been pledged. Smashing successes on the funding platform include the original Pebble smartwatch and virtual reality goggles from Oculus, the company that Facebook acquired this year for $2 billion.

Like Pinterest, Kickstarter gets more press for how people are using the platform than for how the company itself is performing. In fact, Kickstarter wasn't even among the top 10 most covered start-ups this year, despite how frequently it's name came up in stories.

AirPR Co-founder and CEO Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer equates such high mentions to the New York Stock Exchange in the context of publicly listed companies on the trading platform. "In addition to traditional press about the NYSE, half the time a public company is mentioned, the publication mentions the NYSE and the ticker symbol," said Fouladgar-Mercer.

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The blogging site Medium has gotten a healthy dose of mentions because it's led by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. But it's also getting citations because it's an increasingly popular publishing platform for prominent people including best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk and new media guru Jeff Jarvis.

10 tech start-ups that got the most company coverage in 2014

  1. Uber
  2. Dropbox
  3. Etsy
  4. Square
  5. Snapchat
  6. Flipkart (India)
  7. BitTorrent
  8. Pinterest
  9. Lyft
  10. Soundcloud

Turning to which start-up was the subject of deeper coverage and the highest number of storiessurprise!the winner was Uber. Actually, this will be a surprise to nobody, in tech at least. The ridesharing app has been all over the news this year for its mammoth fundraising and valuation (now at $40 billion), its hostile encounters with governments, regulators and taxi groups across the world and its aggressive tactics in taking on competitors, using consumer data.

Uber's main competitor, Lyft, was ninth on the list. According to AirPR's data, Uber received quadruple the coverage of Lyft for most of the year, but in recent months the ratio has been more like 8-to-1.

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Second to Uber was Dropbox, the cloud file-sharing and collaboration company that was valued at $10 billion in early 2014. Dropbox has consistently been a hot topic for the past four years or so, but got a healthy dose of substantial ink in the middle of 2014, after launching a new product to store and share photos and videos.

At the same time, the company announced that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was joining its board of directors.

Etsy, the marketplace for homemade goods, was third, followed by payments company Square. Snapchat, the wildly popular app for sending disappearing messages and photos, rounded out the top five.