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:

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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.)

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