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In times of tragedy, people turn to the newspapers for information

March 29, 2010 - Art Smith

The number of visitors a Web site will get is normally a fairly predictable thing. As we move through our daily lives we tend to do pretty much the same thing at the same time of day.

Visiting a newspaper Web site is no different. Most newspaper sites enjoy their strongest traffic during the day. The workday that is. The number of people on a site on most days peaks at about 9 a.m., slowly trails off all day and then has another smaller peak in the evening. Weekends and holidays are normally lower in terms of visitors than the typical workday. In the mid-Ohio Valley around 9,000 people normally view MariettaTimes.com on any given day, and around 10,000 people view NewsandSentinel.com.

Last Monday was anything but normal.

Fire officials in Washington County had their hands full as they battled not one, but two devastating fire. One took the lives of a Reno couple, the other destroyed several downtown buildings and businesses.

As firefighters continued to battle the blaze, both newspapers quickly got stories and photos up on the site. Traffic to both sites began to spike shortly after word of the fires began to spread.

With both fires being closer to The Times, the bulk of the traffic ended up on MariettaTimes.com.

On the Monday prior to the fire MariettaTimes.com had 8,816 people use the site. On the Monday of the fire 18,754 people used the site. Interest in the sites remained high all week, with traffic running about 2,000 visitors per day over the week before. NewsandSentinel.com was up around 1,500 people per day all week.

Traffic spikes such as Monday’s do not happen very often. In fact, since we began using Google Analytics two years it was the largest spike above normal that I have seen on either site. Traffic to our photo site CU, was up as well as people used the site to view photos from the fires. Photos on the site have now been viewed more than 12,000 times. Past floods, elections and other big stories have produced spikes in traffic, but nothing close to what the site saw last week.

The events were tragic to all involved. It’s important though that people know when tragedy occurs they can, and do, turn to the both the printed and online versions of the newspapers to stay informed about what is going on.

 
 

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Front Street fire