Opinion

Felix Salmon

Where the public turns for real-time news

By Felix Salmon
May 6, 2011

Eric Savitz has this fascinating table, showing Experian’s estimates of traffic to various news sites on Monday:

Bin-Laden-Monday-chart.png

Yahoo News is always a traffic powerhouse — it got almost 9 million visits the previous Monday. But that number trebled on May 2, to what might well be an all-time record for daily visits to a news website. If that number only includes visits to news.yahoo.com and excludes visits to the Yahoo homepage, it’s astonishing — especially when compared to Google News, which saw a relatively modest jump to less than a tenth of the Yahoo traffic.

I suspect that a large proportion of those 27 million visits came from people searching for Osama bin Laden on Google — which in turn seems to be better at driving traffic to Yahoo’s news pages than to its own. That’s as it should be: Yahoo’s news pages are better than Google’s.

At the same time, however, it’s only reasonable to assume that a significant proportion of the online population really does go straight to Yahoo News when something’s breaking. Note too the fact that four of the top six sites in the list are the online arms of TV networks, and that all of the top seven sites are either TV networks or web-native sites.

The lesson is clear: when big news breaks, people flock to TV. And when they’re online, they still flock to TV, or else they go to the main sites they think of for providing good fast web-native news. Other news sites, like NYT and WaPo, are lucky just to break into the top ten. They’re very good at what they do. But the broad population still doesn’t think of them as being real-time in the way that TV and the web are.

(Of course the Experian numbers probably differ greatly from what internal numbers show, but the assumption here is that the relative numbers are broadly true. Reuters.com registered more than 2.8 million visits on Monday, compared to about a million from the week before.)

Comments
6 comments so far | RSS Comments RSS

RSS feeds in Google Reader + Google News = perfection.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive
 

You’re looking at Monday, of course. But I think my experience on Sunday sheds some light on our media choices.
At 10:29 Sunday night, I read online that Obama was going to make a major announcement. I went to the White House web site, then to the White House page on Facebook. Since the announcement was delayed, I toggled between them and CNN and the NYT home pages for about 15 minutes before the ‘Osama is dead’ information trickled out.
By 11:15, I was still waiting, but my internet service had slowed to a crawl – maybe something to do with those 3K tweets per minute or something. I realized that any White House video would be buffering for an eternity, so I went upstairs and saw the speech on TV.

Posted by RZ0 | Report as abusive
 

I have a different potential explanation — Yahoo smartly directs its e-mail users to its news content. I have both a yahoo and a gmail account, and my yahoo mail account gives me headlines when I check my e-mail, so I’m more likely to click through to yahoo news articles even though I’ve never deliberately gone to the yahoo news site to check news. Gmail does no such thing, although google news search is the first place I go when I’m actively seeking out the latest word on a specific story or topic.

Posted by Jboy609 | Report as abusive
 

As RZ0 notes, I got the information from Twitter, which also mentioned that it was big enough that MSNBC was broadcasting live on the weekend and that Wolfie was hosting a Blitzed John King.

Posted by klhoughton | Report as abusive
 

I wonder what the comparable counts for Al Jazeera were?

Posted by MaysonLancaster | Report as abusive
 

As a news junkie, I get my news from several different sources.

I have checked all of the sites listed in the table from time to time, even Fox News, just to check on what ridiculous crap the social conservatives in America are consuming.

I even enjoy reading the English version of Pravda to acquaint myself with the Russian point of view. Pravda is much more informative and entertaining than I expected it to be.

But I have to say that I’m surprised that Reuters didn’t make the list. The stories on Reuters are continually updated to keep them current with new developments, the format is excellent and many of the most intelligent, professional, thoughtful and articulate reporters in the world can be found right here.

(No, I don’t work for Reuters and this is not a clandestine PR advertisement.)

Reuters is my number one choice for news.

Posted by breezinthru | Report as abusive
 

Post Your Comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
  •