WAR ON THE WEB: TRAFFIC SPIKES, PULLED ADS

News Site Traffic Increases 200% or More

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As war raged across the World Wide Web, online news sites reported traffic spikes, self-imposed short-term ad blackouts and lost
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revenue as some advertisers pulled or postponed ad campaigns.

Web traffic on CNN.com, Foxnews.com and CBSnews.com increased by more than 200% during the opening 24 hours of the war, according to figures released by ComScore Media Metrix.

MSN News
Scott Moore, general manager of MSN news and information, expects this month's audience to double, and said the site is ready to handle between 66,000 and 100,000 simultaneous viewers accessing live news feeds.

MSNBC.com, a joint venture between Microsoft Corp. and General Electric Co.'s NBC News, pulled ads for 48 hours as of March 18 and was prepared to lift the ban late March 21, subject to news events.

AOL Time Warner's America Online suspended ads from its welcome screen, AOL News, and the CNN, Money and Time news areas at midnight March 19 for 48 hours. It planned to reinstate ads as of midnight March 21, although it, too, said it was prepared to extend the ad blackout as events warranted.

Pop-unders eliminated
Walt Disney Co.'s ABCNews.com, which recently launched ABCNewsLive, a streaming audio/video service available only to ABCNews On Demand subscribers, eliminated all pop-under ads for 24 hours starting March 19, but as of press time, considered another black out. ABCNewsLive does not carry advertising. "Our primary concern is to have the most up-to-date information on ABCNewsLive, and to provide live and unfiltered briefings and details," said Bernard Gershon, senior vice president and general manager for ABCNews.com.

Despite the ad dip, Web news sites hope attracting more consumers last week will mean more people click back through after the war coverage has waned.

Traffic boosts
"These kinds of news events [drive] more people to use online news sites, [and] there is some sustaining factor," said Neil Budde, president of the Neil Budde Group, a media consulting firm. Mr. Budde is the former editor and publisher of The Wall Street Journal Online.

Subscription video services such as Real Networks' RealOne SuperPass, which offers live news from ABCNews.com and CNN.com, also found themselves in front of a significant number of new users. Reuters last week launched a dedicated streaming video service enabling access to front-line war footage via its Web site. Similarly, Yahoo! added ABC News reports to its subscription Yahoo! Platinum service.

Streaming audio, video
Real Networks on March 20 reported that its Real Broadcast Network was on track to reach as much as 4 million streaming audio and video accesses to content by the day's end, nearly three times its average daily traffic.

"If TV ratings triple or quadruple, then it's expected that Web traffic will as well," said Larry Goodman, president of CNN sales and marketing. Mr. Goodman said ad cancellations would result in "a significant revenue loss for the first couple of days," though he said the expectation "is that we'll be able to make that good later in the quarter."

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