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Akamai's News Junkie Index

A new service by edge server specialist Akamai provides insight into the online news-reading habits of users worldwide.

The Akamai Net Usage Index for News, launched Thursday, tallies traffic to the more than 100 online news sites.

At press time, the sites had 1.75 million North American viewers per minute, while there were about 19,000 night owls in Asia catching up on the news every minute.

The index site, which is refreshed every five minutes, will also keep historical data such as traffic levels over the past 24 hours and rate the most popular news over the past three months.

Online media outlets like CNN, LeMonde and NZZ AG use Akamai to distribute their news load off company Web servers and onto the Cambridge, Mass.-based company's edge servers located around the world, speeding performance for Web visitors.

Akamai's distributed network of edge servers provide insight into the users who visit its customers content, though officials hasten to mention they are not collecting any personal information on visitors, just aggregate numbers.

The news portals under Akamai make up only a percentage of the total number of online news sites worldwide, so if a highly popular Chinese news site isn't an Akamai customer, it could skew data coming from Asia. But officials are comfortable saying the index provides a representative sampling of global online news.

"We do have a large percentage of news site customers in each geography," said Jeff Young, an Akamai spokesman. "Being in business the number of years we've been in, we're feeling like we're in a good position now to have this data be reflective of a representative list."

Akamai points to research that shows that reading online news is one of the most common activities on the Internet, after e-mail and search, with four out of five adults accessing an online news site in a week's time. Officials feel that providing an index of the most popular news and where's it's coming from provides a view on geographic and sociological trends.

It's an assessment Dana Gardner, principal analyst at research firm Interarbor Solutions, agrees with and hopes to see expanded into a Web service environment or RSS feed. The fact the Akamai index provides free usage information on real user actions, rather than paying a premium to a data marketing researcher, is a plus.

Akamai's Net Usage Index for News can be seen here.