Judging by data provided by the two major web traffic measurement firms, the 1991 Iraq conflict may have been the first war followed primarily on Cable TV (thanks to CNN broadcasting from Baghdad), but this the first was Americans have followed as closely on the Internet as anywhere else.
"Since 9/11, we've seen many of the top Web news sites gain viewership online, attracting surfers looking for up-to-the-minute headlines and instant coverage," explained Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings. "Online news sources also have a distinct advantage during the work day, as office workers log online from their fast connections on the job."
According to the latest data from comScore Media Metrix, the number of unique visitors March 19th, increased by only 8%, but the 15 major news sites handled a whopping 54% increase in unique visitors compared to an average day in the previous 4 weeks.
The biggest gainers in total at-home and at-work visitors were foxnews.com, with 104% more visitors (680,680 total), followed by time.com (96% to 1.57 million), AP.org (84% to 179,326) and MSNBC.com, which attracted the most visitors - almost 3.8 million – averaging 81% more visitors than on any day in the last 4 weeks.
The interesting story is in the at-home/at-work split. As at-home web users go, comScore data show, there was little change – a tiny 1% increase to 37 million. The overall at-work audience, however, increased 16% to 36.5 million, almost equaling at-home.
These at-work visitors increased their usage of online news destinations by a whopping 75%, contributing to huge traffic increased for MSNBC.com, CNN.com, Time.com, Foxnews.com and, notably bbc.co.uk, which logged a 119% traffic increase thanks to American visitors - the site’s international visitors totaled more than 2.2 million, which is a 17% increase from the company’s daily average, according to comScore.
comScore says that BBC attracted the most visitors, but international visitors looking for war information also favored CNN.com and foxnews.com, which recorded a 94% and 91% increases in international unique visitors respectively.
Nielsen//NetRatings is also reporting that traffic to major Web news sources as well as federal government sites has spiked. According to daily audience measurement analysis from Nielsen//NetRatings, many of the top news sites posted double-digit growth on Wednesday, as compared to traffic a week ago.
CNN.com drew more than 3.7 million unique visitors at work yesterday, up 30% from a week ago. The site also recorded a 29% jump in traffic on 3/17, as compared to last Monday, 3/12. Traffic to MSNBC.com skyrocketed 38% to nearly 3.3 million yesterday, while Yahoo! News attracted 2.6 million unique visitors. NYTimes.com garnered nearly 1.2 million surfers, while Washingtonpost.com soared 34% to a little over a million visitors.
Other big gainers include USAToday.com, doubling traffic to its site on Wednesday 3/19 to 635,000 surfers. MSN Slate posted an increase of 84%, while FoxNews.com attracted more than one million surfers, with traffic rising 77%. Google News and ABC News traffic surged 55 and 54% at work, respectively.
The at-work visitor increases serve as proof to the validity of the latest Online Publishers Association’s study, which outlined five distinct dayparts that exist on the Internet, including Early Morning (M-F, 6am-8am), and Daytime (M-F, 8am-5pm). As part of the study, the OPA discovered that usage of News & Information sites peaks during the Early Morning and Daytime, when a majority of usage is from work.
Notably, as Angela Gamba, spokeswoman for aQuantive’s Atlas DMT, told MediaPost, that Atlas DMT has seen a significant increase in their ad impression volume this week as well. “In fact,” she said, “it is about 15% higher than last week, and 20% higher than two weeks ago. This obviously relates to the fact that more people are using the Internet to get news and information; therefore more people are viewing online ads.”