Low Point For War Effort High Point For Web News
Apr 24, 2003, 12:00 AM
Hitwise reports that U.S. primary news sites enjoyed their greatest spikes in Web traffic share on March 23rd, the day Arab TV station Al Jazeera aired footage of American bodies and prisoners of war. The two next biggest spikes for these sites came even earlier: on March 16th, the day President Bush emerged from the Azores summit reinforcing a deadline for the U.N to endorse the use of force, and on March 19th, the day by which the President demanded Saddam Hussein leave Iraq. Despite the huge spikes that U.S. primary news sites enjoyed during the war, nearly all of them failed to make permanent gains. By April 15, the day U.S. forces took Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, Web traffic shares of these sites had dropped to their pre-war levels. CNN.com, the unchallenged leader of the group, doubled its Web traffic share during the war-to over 73% of U.S. Internet user visits to all Internet sites-but by April 15 had dropped below its March 1 level of .36%. One site that did manage to make permanent gains was Fox News. Fox ended the war ranked 4th highest among U.S. primary news sites, having begun the war 7th among that group. Fox was also the most successful site on the metric of average-time-spent. Fox's users spent an average of nearly ten minutes per visit during the war, more than a minute longer than users on the next highest site. And at the end of the war, Fox was the only site whose users still spent appreciably more time per visit-nearly a minute more-than they did before the war started. Illustrating the competitive state of online news, the site that sent Fox the most traffic during the war, and the site Fox sent the most traffic to was CNN. Throughout the war, CNN held a steady 11% of both Fox's upstream and downstream traffic. MSNBC, by the time the first shots were fired, had moved well ahead of The New York Times to become the clear #2 U.S. primary news site. By the end of the war, however, MSNBC had slipped back to its March 1st traffic share, neck-and-neck with the Times.