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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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus