Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

The New York Times, Brought to You–Literally–by Twitter

new-york-times-buildingIt has been easy enough to be skeptical about Twitter’s influence and staying power–I do it all the time. But there’s no denying that Twitter has become a powerful driver of Web traffic.

Just ask the New York Times (NYT), which says Twitter is about to become one of the top 10 referral sources to the paper’s site.

Impressive. But what exactly does this mean?

There was a flurry of excitement this afternoon on Twitter–of course–when Simulmedia CEO Dave Morgan threw out a much more exciting data point: Reporting/Tweeting from an industry conference, Morgan said Times digital boss Martin Nisenholtz had announced that “Twitter now drives 10% of NYT digital distribution, up from 0 a year ago.”

dave morgan twitter

Other attendees report hearing the same thing. But whether they were participating in a mass hallucination or Nisenholtz misspoke, here’s the Times’s official line, via spokeswoman Diane McNulty: “At its current growth rate, Twitter is, or will soon move into, the top 10 in terms of referrals to NYTimes.com.”

If that’s the case, then Twitter likely accounts for much less than 10 percent of the Times’s traffic. If you assume that Google (GOOG) is the paper’s largest external referral source and that it likely accounts for a third of the site’s traffic (these are semi-educated guesses, but I’m happy to adjust), then Twitter and other sources at the bottom of the top 10 are going to be in the low single digits.

Still! It is a lot of traffic, and a year ago it either didn’t exist or someone else was directing it to the Times. Now the trick for Twitter (and its investors) is to figure out a way to capitalize on this phenomenon.


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