Watching the War on the Web

As America continues its vigil of the war through the media, television is the clear choice for most immediate information for those following the war from their homes. For those at work, the Internet is the first choice, hence it's no surprise that at-work traffic to online news sources continues to outpace home usage, according to online traffic measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatings.

"Online news sources generally grab a bigger piece of the work audience, generating around 50% more viewership at the office as compared to at home usage," said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings. "Obviously, television viewing plays a huge part at home, providing surfers with even more direct access to the latest headlines with many cable and network news channels delivering round-the-clock coverage of the conflict in Iraq."

CNN.com continued to lead the way in traffic at work, peaking on Thursday 3/20 with more than five million office workers logging on to the site, as compared to last Thursday. MSNBC.com skyrocketed 65%, with more than 3.9 million unique visitors, as compared to 2.4 million last Thursday. Yahoo! News posted nearly 2.8 million in traffic yesterday, while Fox News more than doubled its visitorship to more than 1.1 million.

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The online arm of popular national news dailies, NYTimes.com and Washingtonpost.com, both attracted roughly one million surfers at work.

Notably, says Christine Mohan at New York Times Digital (NYTD), Nielsen//NetRatings doesn't track international visitors or domains like .edu or .gov, which are "substantial audiences."

Mohan says that NYTD's internal stats show that the company has had over 2 million unique worldwide visitors for the past 2 Mondays, compared to a Q4 average of 1.2M/day, the January average of 1.3M/day, and the February average of 1.5M a day.

Mohan also says that "registrations of new users are way up -- compared to a typical 20-25K/day, we saw 35K new users sign up for NYTimes.com on Monday and Tuesday."

Online news consumption at home shows an increase as well, but the sheer traffic numbers for various top news sites are far below the consumption rates at work. CNN.com recorded more than two million unique visitors on 3/20, up 49% from a week ago on 3/13, while MSNBC.com drew nearly 1.9 million surfers at home.

"With many of the Web news outfits offering live or taped streamed video content, surfers are able to 'watch' the news online, attempting to provide a comparable television viewing experience," said Bloom.

Additionally, Nielsen//NetRatings reports that international online news sites, such as the BBC and The Guardian have also spiked in traffic. The BBC drew 203,000 unique visitors on Thursday 3/20 in the U.S., while The Guardian attracted 182,000 surfers at work.

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