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War Boosts UK News Site Surfing

Posted: 16th Apr, 2003 By: MarkJ
The latest statistics from Nielsen//Netratings has shown that online (Internet) traffic to UK news sites jumped by over a quarter during March, which can be largely attributed to the war with Iraq.

March traffic to global news and current affair-themed Web sites jumped 27% month-on-month to 6.1 million Internet users. For Western Europe as a whole, the figure jumped 14% in the same period to 28.7 million consumers.

De Standaard Online, the Web site for the Belgian daily newspaper, saw traffic double on day one of the war to 80,000 visitors. The newspaper expects a quarter of that increase to stay on as regular online readers. But they come at a cost.

"It's a problem," said Bart Van Balla, Webmaster for the site, http://www.standaard.be. "We have a budget for bandwidth that we've exceeded almost every day. Now we will have more costs added on at the end of the year."

De Standaard's predicament reflects the paradox of the Web. Huge traffic surges can come without notice, adding unforeseen costs that cannot immediately be recouped by selling extra ads or news subscriptions.

"It's not just about buying extra servers, it's about making an investment in new ideas, and it takes a strong tech team to make it happen. If you make that commitment, there's a big entry price," said Simon Waldman, director of digital publishing for Guardian Newspapers in London.

Waldman said The Guardian site, http://www.guardian.co.uk, logged twice as much traffic on the first day of the war as it did for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

In March, the site, which has boosted its war coverage in novel fashion by adding links to war-themed Web logs -- or pithy online journals from amateur diarists -- exceeded 9 million unique visitors for the month.

The site is entirely free and remains unprofitable. But revenues have jumped 30% year-on-year, Waldman said, adding subscriptions "will be a part of our future."
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