Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Are Americans Surfing More Because They’re Working Less?

File under “not quite sure what to make of this”: Americans lost 600,000 jobs last month. And a wide variety of Web site operators tell me they’ve seen eye-popping traffic numbers last month. Anyone want to connect the dots?

First, some data points:

  • Gawker Media’s Nick Denton reports a big traffic spike at his sites in January–298 million page views, a 30 percent year-over-year increase. That’s even though one of his biggest annual eyeball attractors–Steve Jobs at MacWorld–never materialized.
  • CEO Mike Hudack tells me that uploads to his Web video network have increased 50 percent so far this year.
  • Now News Corp.’s (NWS) MySpace, citing comScore numbers, notes that its U.S. traffic shot up last month as well: Unique visitors were up 10 percent, which is worth noting for a (relatively) old social network, and those folks spent 30 percent more time on the site than they did a year ago. (News Corp. is the owner of Dow Jones, which owns this Web site.)
  • Obligatory Twitter traffic stat: 2.6 million uniques in January, up 1,362 percent over the last year.
  • ComScore’s (SCOR) overall numbers for Web usage for the last month: Uniques up 4.1 percent, page views up 3.1 percent, time spent per visitor up 2.5 percent.

Is any of this meaningful? Hard to say: Any single site can argue that it has done something to generate more visits and engagement from its users: MySpace has its MySpace Music site, Twitter is the buzziest start-up of the last 12 months, etc.

And last month also happened to feature Barack Obama’s inauguration, which was a huge Web traffic driver.

Still… there aren’t that many more Americans who are getting online for the first time at this point. Isn’t it reasonable to assume that a wide variety of sites is posting big traffic gains because many of us are now unemployed or underemployed? And that we’ve got more a lot of downtime to surf and click?

Alas, all those eyeballs aren’t translating to dollars for many of these publishers: Just ask Time Warner’s (TWX) AOL, which saw page views increase 69 percent during the last three months of 2008, but saw ad revenue drop 18 percent.

But I digress. If for some reason you do find yourself with more time on your hands, might I suggest this trio of themed YouTube videos? Enjoy. And good luck.

[Image Credit: Daquella Manera]

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik