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Major news events’ effect on web traffic

December 20, 2011

Here’s an early Christmas presents for my fellow analytics nerds.

In my last post I talked about how the goal of online media during a big story is to draw in lots of new readers, then convert as many as possible into regular readers.

By hacking around with the year’s data, we can get a rough idea of this in New Zealand. I’ll just warn before we go on, this is completely unscientific, and while it can give you a sense of what’s going on, it’s not the kind of data you can draw strong conclusions off. That’ especially true for the small sites, where traffic can swing quite a lot from small events. Correlation does not equal causation.

With that warning out of the way, here’s Average Daily Unique Browers, NZ only, which gives us a good estimate of how many people are checking a site each day. All data publicly available from Nielsen-NetRatings Market Intelligence, and the usual caveat – I work for Fairfax Media, which owns Stuff.co.nz.

First, here’s the traffic before, during and after the Feb quake (week starting Feb 21). Watch in particular the % change after and % change during.

February Quake odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 10,298 17,170 454,918 265,762 1,739 2,762
Average post 11,567 20,007 452,890 258,236 2,153 2,988
Change after 1,269 2,837 -2,029 -7,526 414 225
% change after 12% 17% 0% -3% 24% 8%
Traffic During 13,649 59,898 470,977 265,388 5,830 6,778
Change during 3,351 42,728 16,059 -374 4,091 4,016
% change during 33% 249% 4% 0% 235% 145%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,129 7,355 280,632 238,077 79,028
Average post 3,339 8,097 289,881 246,791 89,225
Change after 210 742 9,249 8,715 10,197
% change after 7% 10% 3% 4% 13%
Traffic During 3,590 11,332 385,071 325,225 140,460
Change during 461 3,977 104,439 87,148 61,432
% change during 15% 54% 37% 37% 78%

TVNZ is doing well here, with a 10,000 or 13% increase in its average daily traffic after the quake. So are the big news site (Stuff and NZHerald). While they only had small percent increases, and extra 10,000 UBs daily is great. Only Yahoo and MSN are lacklustre. It’s probable they lost traffic to the professional news sites.

Here’s ADUBs for week starting May 2, when Osama bin Laden was killed and a tornado struck in Auckland.

Osama, Tornado odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 11,567 20,007 452,890 258,236 2,153 2,988
Average post 13,010 20,102 467,793 267,633 1,792 3,014
Change after 1,443 94 14,903 9,397 -361 26
% change after 12% 0% 3% 4% -17% 1%
Traffic During 12,433 29,685 472,960 271,585 2,024 2,918
Change during 866 9,678 20,070 13,349 -129 -70
% change during 7% 48% 4% 5% -6% -2%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,339 8,097 289,881 246,791 89,225
Average post 3,450 8,566 306,226 248,898 90,689
Change after 111 469 16,345 2,106 1,464
% change after 3% 6% 6% 1% 2%
Traffic During 3,687 8,744 325,657 281,443 106,004
Change during 348 647 35,776 34,652 16,779
% change during 10% 8% 12% 14% 19%

It’s interesting that the NZHerald got such a big jump from the week when the tornado hit, yet only managed to keep a small portion of these new readers as regulars. Stuff has nearly as big a jump during the event, but managed to convert a lot more.

3News did well as usual during the event, but a 0% conversion rate is enough to put a frown on anyone’s face.

ODT‘s conversion rate is probably an artefact of something else that boosted their traffic in weeks following, since it went up more in the weeks following than during the event itself.

MSN and Yahoo don’t do so badly here, with small increases but off big bases.

Now here’s ADUBs for week starting June 13, when a strong aftershock rattled Christchurch.

Christchurch aftershock odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 13,010 20,102 467,793 267,633 1,792 3,014
Average post 12,885 22,142 473,790 249,833 2,446 3,159
Change after -125 2,040 5,998 -17,799 654 145
% change after -1% 10% 1% -7% 36% 5%
Traffic During 12,133 22,116 477,894 249,542 3,135 3,420
Change during -877 2,014 10,101 -18,091 1,343 406
% change during -7% 10% 2% -7% 75% 13%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,450 8,566 306,226 248,898 90,689
Average post 3,670 7,701 316,183 251,090 93,481
Change after 220 -865 9,957 2,192 2,792
% change after 6% -10% 3% 1% 3%
Traffic During 3,911 7,733 319,943 261,561 94,972
Change during 461 -833 13,717 12,663 4,283
% change during 13% -10% 4% 5% 5%

Ouch for MSN and a boost for 3News. Looks like 3News converted a lot of the traffic that came during the event.

Interesting that again the NZHerald saw a big jump in traffic during the event, but a poor conversion rate. Again, Stuff saw a smaller increase during the event, but better conversion.

Here’s traffic for the week starting August 15, when a series of snowstorms struck the country.

Wild weather odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 12,885 22,142 473,790 249,833 2,446 3,159
Average post 12,187 21,046 454,239 239,377 2,241 3,743
Change after -698 -1,096 -19,551 -10,456 -205 583
% change after -5% -5% -4% -4% -8% 18%
Traffic During 14,984 24,719 455,555 241,672 2,241 3,440
Change during 2,099 2,577 -18,235 -8,161 -205 281
% change during 16% 12% -4% -3% -8% 9%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,670 7,701 316,183 251,090 93,481
Average post 3,524 7,653 319,495 252,020 93,108
Change after -146 -48 3,312 930 -373
% change after -4% -1% 1% 0% 0%
Traffic During 3,693 7,842 341,272 256,851 101,792
Change during 23 141 25,090 5,761 8,311
% change during 1% 2% 8% 2% 9%

Stuff and TVNZ did best here, but curiously, looks like not many new or casual readers converted to regular ones. Interesting too that NZHerald had a pretty average week during the event.

See more on RWC traffic.

Next let’s look at the start of Rugby World Cup, week starting Sept 12.

Rugby World Cup kickoff odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 12,187 21,046 454,239 239,377 2,241 3,743
Average post 12,876 24,170 456,517 248,240 2,049 2,911
Change after 689 3,124 2,278 8,863 -192 -832
% change after 6% 15% 1% 4% -9% -22%
Traffic During 13,747 24,562 466,923 252,636 2,266 2,940
Change during 1,560 3,516 12,684 13,259 26 -803
% change during 13% 17% 3% 6% 1% -21%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,524 7,653 319,495 252,020 93,108
Average post 4,055 7,833 335,750 269,917 95,908
Change after 531 180 16,255 17,897 2,800
% change after 15% 2% 5% 7% 3%
Traffic During 3,613 8,202 338,726 274,194 98,047
Change during 89 550 19,232 22,174 4,939
% change during 3% 7% 6% 9% 5%

The increase many sites saw after the kickoff was likely Rugby World Cup traffic, and not people who are still reading daily today. If you look at the traffic post-RWC it’s hardly moved from pre-RWC averages. But that does mean these numbers are a good indication of how the site did during the RWC – that is, the NZHerald saw about 7% more UBs daily on average during the event.

3News again does well. It seems that it reliably picks up a few thousand more ADUBs after each major news event.

And now, the Kardashian divorce saga (week starting Oct 31). While the Kardashian stories individually rated well, they didn’t tend to bring in lots of new readers, or convert them to more regular readers.

Kardashian divorce odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 12,876 24,170 456,517 248,240 2,049 2,911
Average post 13,585 21,572 483,546 260,382 2,100 3,527
Change after 709 -2,598 27,029 12,142 51 617
% change after 6% -11% 6% 5% 2% 21%
Traffic During 13,648 21,801 469,027 258,790 2,237 3,103
Change during 772 -2,369 12,510 10,550 188 193
% change during 6% -10% 3% 4% 9% 7%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 4,055 7,833 335,750 269,917 95,908
Average post 3,828 8,464 327,289 261,427 87,441
Change after -227 631 -8,461 -8,490 -8,467
% change after -6% 8% -3% -3% -9%
Traffic During 4,248 8,537 337,795 267,836 96,091
Change during 193 704 2,045 -2,081 183
% change during 5% 9% 1% -1% 0%

What do we see? For Stuff and NZHerald, traffic pretty much smack on average, while MSN and Yahoo got a slight lift on the week and the following weeks. This suggests that it didn’t drive traffic, so while the stories may have proved popular on the most sites (and they did, sigh) it didn’t actually result in much more regular traffic to any site.

The slight decrease you see afterwards is likely an artefact of RWC traffic boosting the pre-averages.

Finally, let’s look at traffic for the recent helicopter crash in Auckland and national election (week starting Nov 21).

Helicopter crash odt.co.nz 3news.co.nz yahoo.co.nz msn.co.nz radiolive.co.nz hawkesbaytoday.co.nz
Average pre 13,585 21,572 483,546 260,382 2,100 3,527
Average post 12,469 21,864 489,538 258,687 2,187 3,065
Change after -1,117 292 5,992 -1,695 88 -463
% change after -8% 1% 1% -1% 4% -13%
Traffic During 14,038 30,523 495,431 262,062 3,380 3,395
Change during 453 8,951 11,885 1,681 1,281 -132
% change during 3% 41% 2% 1% 61% -4%
bayofplentytimes.co.nz scoop.co.nz stuff.co.nz nzherald.co.nz tvnz.co.nz
Average pre 3,828 8,464 327,289 261,427 87,441
Average post 4,172 7,891 333,246 271,748 87,002
Change after 344 -573 5,957 10,322 -439
% change after 9% -7% 2% 4% -1%
Traffic During 4,179 10,903 351,199 276,586 105,112
Change during 351 2,440 23,910 15,160 17,671
% change during 9% 29% 7% 6% 20%

Here the usual situation between Stuff and NZHerald is reversed. The NZHerald had a lower percent increase, but managed to convert more of them into regular users. This seems to be due to one anomalously high week in the post-average though, and not real trend.

Looks like lots of people went to TVNZ and 3News to see the clip, but none of them liked what they saw enough to hang around afterward.

And have a look at Scoop’s election boost, followed by people leaving once the results were in.

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