March Events Influence Web Traffic

Two made-for-TV events, the NCAA basketball tournaments and the Oscars, had an effect on where Internet users went online in March.

Home Internet users flocked to the Internet during the week of March 10 for the latest news and analysis of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournament. Various sports Web sites such as SportsLine.com, SportingNews.com, ESPN, Fansonly.com, CNNsi and FinalFour.net all posted gains in traffic.

According to Nielsen//NetRatings, traffic to SportsLine.com jumped 36 percent to more than 1.4 million surfers, as compared to 1.1 million surfers the week prior. SportingNews.com attracted 440,000 visitors, posting a 21 percent increase while ESPN grew 11 percent to nearly 3.4 million visitors. Fansonly.com jumped 9 percent to 555,000 surfers while CNNsi grew 3 percent to 2.6 million surfers. FinalFour.net, the NCAA’s official Web site for the tournament, drew 198,000 surfers during the week of March 10.

“With live game audio and real-time scoring updates, the Web is a go-to media destination for sports fans looking for the latest stats on their alma mater and favorite teams,” said Jarvis Mak, senior Internet media analyst at NetRatings. “Fans turn to the Web to obtain printable brackets for March Madness and select their team picks. Sports sites are a great companion to television, enhancing the experience of fans.”

According to data from webHancer Corp., volume spikes occurred from March 13 to March 14 and lasted through March 15. They began to taper off to pre-spike levels on the 16th and 17th (weekend days with less traffic anyway).


Traffic to NCAA Tournament Sites
(U.S. at-home users)
Site Unique Audience Percent
Change
Week Ending
March 3
Week Ending
March 10
Sportsline.com 1,101 1,495 36%
SportingNews.com 363 440 21%
ESPN 3,058 3,391 11%
Fansonly.com 511 555 9%
CNNsi 2,493 2,579 3%
FinalFour.net 198 N/A
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

FinalFour.net experienced the largest traffic increase – 326 percent – of all sites examined on March 14, and the site traffic fell only 66 percent from the high on the 15th, and another 25 percent after that on March 16.

Sportsillustrated.cnn.com experienced a traffic surge from March 13 to the 14, when traffic increased 61 percent and then fell by 15 percent on March 15. Since then traffic has remained steady. Sportsline.com/collegebasketball saw an increase in traffic of 54 percent on March 14 and then had traffic fall 18 percent the next day. ESPN has been holding steady without any major traffic fluctuations.

WebHancer found that FinalFour.net is delivering the best overall user experience with a page that takes only 3.6 seconds on average to load, and an abandon rate of only 1.1 percent. Next in line is SportsIllustrated.cnn.com, which delivers its page in an average of 5.4 seconds, with an abandon rate of only 1 percent. Sportsline comes in third with a page load time of 5.6 seconds on average, and a 1.5 percent abandon rate, leaving ESPN last at 6.7 seconds and a much higher 4.5 percent abandon rate.

The Academy Awards didn’t provide quite the traffic boost that the basketball tournament did, according to data from comScore, with related sites drawing no more than about 650,000 visitors worldwide, with most below 500,000.

Oscar-related sites measured enjoyed an spike on Oscar Sunday. Oscar.com tripled its audience versus the day before (Saturday) and traffic grew 700 percent from one week before the Oscar airing.

Sites such as ew.com (Entertainment Weekly) and eonline.com (E! Entertainment television) were favored by U.S. surfers, while official sites oscar.com and oscar.org – as well as the film resource site imdb.com – drew more than half of their viewers from other countries.

Despite Denzel Washington’s Oscar award, he took fourth in Web searches of Best Actor nominees: Russell Crowe, Will Smith and Tom Wilkinson all preceded Washington. By contrast, Halle Berry is the undisputed champion not only among actresses, but of any nominated actress (or actor) in online searches.

Lord of the Rings dominated Web-related searches across the “Best Film” category nominees, with Moulin Rouge and Beautiful Mind following. However, Lord of the Rings undoubtedly got a boost from its strong merchandising presence.

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