News sites have seen a flood of traffic since the onset of the war with Iraq, while maintaining their reliability, according to the data collected from the first days of the campaign.
Nielsen//NetRatings found traffic to the top five news sites — CNN, MSNBC, Yahoo! News, NYTimes.com, and washingtonpost.com — surged 21 percent from a week earlier. Traffic was up nearly across the board: CNN’s traffic grew 30 percent, MSNBC.com by 38 percent, and washingtonpost.com by 34 percent.
Keynote Systems said the top media sites have maintained excellent reliability, with few showing availability problems or even slow loading. ABC.com had a one-hour drop in availability on Thursday afternoon, increasing download time from two seconds to five. The BBC’s site also had an availability problem yesterday evening, according to Keynote, although it did not affect performance.
This stands in contrast to the experience of Sept. 11, when many sites were overwhelmed by Web traffic.
Don Marshall, a spokesman for washingtonpost.com, said the site was prepared for a sharp increase in traffic over the next few days. If needed, the site plans to strip its pages of graphics and outsource video feeds to third-party servers. NYTimes.com has a similar plan in place, with the option of going to a streamlined homepage that would ease the burden placed on its servers.
NYTimes.com late Wednesday temporarily scrapped its registration to cater to Web users hungry for news. The requirement, which was in effect for nearly the entire day Nielsen//NetRatings measured, could be behind the only slight traffic increase the site had from a week earlier. The researcher found unique-visitor traffic increased just 5 percent, while sites like FoxNews.com enjoyed a 77 percent boost and ABCNews.com saw a 54 percent gain. Other sites with notable traffic surges on Wednesday included USAToday.com, up 101 percent, and Slate, up 84 percent.