UK News Website Traffic On 7th July 2005

Martin Belam  by Martin Belam, 11 July 2005

More figures have been emerging in the press about the volume of news-seeking traffic there was on the internet last Thursday following the terrorist attack on London - Record traffic to BBC News site

The figures reflect the findings of Hitwise, which said that BBC News accounted for 28.6% of all news page impressions in the UK on Thursday.

Traffic to the BBC homepage made up a further 6.42%. Sky News was third with 3.8%, and Guardian Unlimited fifth with 2.4%.

For me those figures absolutely justify the decisions that were made to use to provide both news coverage and public service information, like the latest police advice and the phone number for the emergency hotline during the course of the day. I'm sure that most people who visited the homepage that day were looking for news rather than our regular depth'n'breadth approach, but more people turned to than to Sky or The Guardian, the sites nearest to the BBC in the news sphere.

I wrote the other day that the figures make my head hurt - BBC News served something like 115 million pages during the day, with a peak of 40,000 requests per second. I can't be certain how many times the BBC homepage was served on Thursday - not all of the versions we used had the same stats tracking codes in them, and when you see the gaps in the graphs on the page that has been published about our server usage that day you realise that due to the load we weren't able to count accurately - but it was an immense number.

The Guardian was the most used newspaper site in the UK on Thursday, and they also have an article about the way the web was used - World flocks to UK news websites

At its peak between 1pm and 2pm yesterday, 770,000 pages were viewed on Guardian Unlimited, the equivalent of 213 pages a second. The peak in terms of visitors came as the US began to wake up three hours later, with 119,000 people making around 160,000 visits between 4pm and 5pm.

When I see the figures put side-by-side like that I remember how irritating the BBC's news presence in the web space must be to commercial news providers. In times of crisis like Thursday though it doesn't matter which news organisation you work for, everyone pulls together to try and get the information out to the public as quickly or as accurately as possible. I know Lloyd at The Guardian has often cast an envious eye at the BBC's budget, but he deserves the last word in any post about the way internet traffic flowed last week, simply for his observation about where it flowed from.

Yesterday was a truly exceptional day. Our editorial team slaved away, our systems team kept everything running, and everyone pitched in with help wherever they could. Needless to say, it was a record day for traffic, but one of the most poignant things I looked at on our stats platform was where the traffic came from by city. The biggest traffic source was London. The second biggest was New York. And the third biggest was...Madrid. Linked by atrocity, but linked nevertheless.

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