Weathered Traffic

October 31st, 2012 by Lauryn

The Chartteam is slowly crawling out from a power-less lower Manhattan and water-logged New Jersey to find that we've been, all in all, incredibly lucky to be spared the worst from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy. Every one of us is safe and every one of our thoughts go out to our neighbors who weren't so lucky. We're just now poking our heads out to assess the real impact of the past few days. For that, we turn to the media for the details we can't see first hand. Sure Twitter and Facebook, too, to share and learn quick snippets in real time, but for the true impact, the fact from the fiction, we (and much of the country it seems) spent the better part of this week turning to major publishers, local news outlets more than we at Chartbeat have seen...ever. We saw well over 7,000,000 concurrent visits and sky-high engaged time across all of the sites within the Chartbeat Universe - so people were not only hitting pages to check the most breaking news, but also stayed there, their attention glued to the stories. Which is even more mind-blowing, as for the most part, Sandy only affected the US east coast. In less than a week, we'll be watching the impact and attention of an event that dramatically affects the entire country, the entire world. If Sandy broke records like this, it'll be an interesting time to place some bets on the kind of traffic and engagement the Presidential Election will drive. Any guesses?
  • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)

    A quick reaction: I do not expect the election will be the key driver to break traffic records. Sandy speaks to a situation where people needed news fast, were more likely to be source agnostic (local + national pubs) and were not finding their needs met by cable news.

    Major breaking news events — natural disasters, war, etc — will be your comparisons to Sandy traffic.

    Politics is more difficult to model as people are more prone to engage their biases and remain tuned to publications already part of their regular (partisan) media diet.

    A contested election is possibly a different story.

    • Lauryn

      Noah,

      You’re absolutely right if you’re looking at traffic in the form of views alone – but if you’re also looking at engagement (how long people’s attention is actively on a piece or a site overall) then I think the odds could actually move in the favor of the election. Especially as you’re reading about and watching opinions on which way the swing states will fall – not just that they’ve been announced.

      Your point about partisan publication loyalty is a great one too – media sites will earn and look to keep the readers they get over the past month(s) and the coming weeks (especially in the case of a contested election) not just on quick breaking news that reports results, but on their brand and what they stand for, which extends a bit deeper than just right or left.

      For that, they need smart, on-brand content that differentiates from every other site out there. To gain and keep readers beyond November.

      • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)

        Lauryn,

        Thanks for the response and I am excited to see the data. It does make sense that people will open a tab or two or three and leave them open throughout the election as well as rely on social referrals to dictate traffic.

        It would be useful to compare datapoints from the debates, Sandy and election night. Context, context, context …

      • Lauryn

        Absolutely – nothing without context.

        And the cool thing with how we measure engagement (at least I think it’s cool – total nerd alert :) is that if someone just leaves tabs open, they don’t count as engaged. They need to be actively reading, writing, or scrolling – in real time, of course.

        Too bad there’s not an easy way to place virtual drink bets on this :)

  • http://twitter.com/noahchestnut Noah Chestnut (@noahchestnut)

    Virtual drink bets … should be a Chartbeat 20% project.

    • Lauryn

      It is hack week….I’ll see if I can put some pressure on the geniuses who build amazing things to build this amazing thing :)