Conflict Brings Web Traffic, Hacking

In response to the war in Iraq, online news sites have experienced traffic increases, according to measurements from Nielsen//NetRatings, with CNN drawing more than 10 million unique visitors.

“During the first full week of conflict in Iraq, a wide range of online news sources experienced surges in traffic, similar to the period right after 9/11,” said Greg Bloom, senior Internet analyst, Nielsen//NetRatings.

Top General and Financial News Sites, (U.S., Work)
Brand/Channel Unique Audience
Week Ending 3/16
Unique Audience
Week Ending 3/23
CNN 6,359,000 10,070,000 58%
MSNBC 6,052,000 8,333,000 38%
Yahoo News 5,354,000 6,460,000 21% 2,867,000 2,825,000 -1%
AOL News 2,978,000 2,680,000 -10% 2,115,000 2,532,000 20%
Fox News 1,291,000 2,304,000 78%
ABC News 1,296,000 1,945,000 50%
Internet Broadcasting
Systems Inc.
1,617,000 1,762,000 9%
MSN Slate 1,031,000 1,762,000 71%
Gannett Newspapers
and Newspaper Division
1,753,000 1,729,000 -1% 1,190,000 1,533,000 29% 1,457,000 1,512,000 4%
Hearst Newspapers Digital 1,105,000 1,326,000 20%
CBS News 1,189,000 1,207,000 2%
Note: Weekly data includes traffic to the entire Digital Media Universe
(DMU), including Web traffic, Internet applications and proprietary channels.
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Nielsen//NetRatings notes a traffic surge of 169 percent to the Time Magazine site to more than 1 million visitors, and The Guardian, had an increase of 137 percent to 835,000 surfers. Fox News jumped 78 percent, attracting more than 2.3 million office workers, while NPR Online increased by 73 percent to 540,000 surfers.

Furthermore, traffic to soared 112 percent to 432,000 unique visitors at home, for the week ending March 23rd, according to Nielsen//NetRatings, with 12 percent of the site’s traffic logged onto the Homeland Security page. The U.S. Department of Defense Web site attracted 2.8 million unique visitors at home, the highest in an 8-week period. Traffic spiked 87 percent from 1.5 million the week prior.

Internet users looked for news from less traditional sources as well, such as blogs, and Nielsen//NetRatings measured a 12 percent increase to, resulting in 316,000 unique visitors. More than 86 percent of the audience traffic went to, a personal chronicle of life in Baghdad, which Forbes included among their nominees for Best War Blog.

Analysis by Omniture suggests that Internet users are primarily interested in current events and news. According to the company, Internet traffic data remained consistent until March 17, 2003 – the date President Bush issued the ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. With the exception of national news, Omniture measured a steady decline in Web traffic since that date, culminating in a drop of 15 percent in expected levels in all content and commerce segments.

“There are many factors that affect the level of Web traffic to a particular site,” said Josh James, chief executive officer of Omniture. “What is interesting about this event is that we are seeing a global affect across all types of Web sites including e-commerce sites and local news/media sites. It is rare to see an event translate across the board.”

The war’s impact on the Internet reaches beyond traffic figures. Findings from mi2g indicate that the total number of verifiable digital attacks for March 2003 is likely to be substantial, making it the second worst month for digital attacks after January 2003.

Despite tightened IT security, mi2g found that the U.S. government and military online computer servers were the main targets, with measured increases in successful and verifiable digital attacks. The biggest Middle East government victim in March was Saudi Arabia, followed by Turkey.

Attacks on North American targets rose sharply, comprising 60 percent of all attacks, while attacks against Europe declined, comprising 20 percent of attacks worldwide. The main target countries for digital attacks were the U.S., Brazil, UK, Italy and Canada.

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