Conventions show mixed Web traffic

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This year's political conventions demonstrated the convergence of media competing for Web viewers, but the results of Web-site ratings are less clear.

Figures compiled by Media Metrix of major news sites covering the conventions show contradictory trends.

A few Web sites, notably CNN.com, saw the number of unique visitors drop during the political conventions, with fairly consistent results for the separate weeks during which Republicans and Democrats nominated their candidates.

ABCNews.com and FoxNews.com had higher results during the GOP convention than the Democratic confab, while MSNBC and the New York Times on the Web

(nytimes.com) experienced the opposite pattern.

Some news Web sites cautioned that other events may account for differences in visits during the weeks the conventions were held, while others said internal data or other ratings companies' numbers differed from the Media Metrix figures.

An official at washingtonpost.com, a site that Media Metrix said had 877,000 unique viewers during the GOP convention week and 1.3 million during the Democratic convention week, noted that several other major stories broke during the week of the Democratic meeting.

"During the Democratic convention, there was a Russian sub story, a story on White House travel costs, a leak that the independent counsel [had sought another grand jury] and stories about a probe of White House e-mails. It combined to make it a busy news week," said Don Marshall, director for communications for washingtonpost.com.

Media Metrix numbers show MSNBC the leader with 4.2 million unique visitors the week of the Democratic convention. Its closest rival, CNN.com, had 2 million. The New York Times' site was in third place with 1.4 million during the Democratic convention.

Lisa Carparelli, director of communications for New York Times Digital, said the site saw fairly similar numbers for both conventions on the political portion of its Web site, but that the submarine story generated additional traffic to the news site.

Laura Durkin, senior VP-news for Fox Digital Media, said Nielsen/NetRatings numbers for FoxNews.com show viewership increasing between conventions as do internal numbers. "We believe that we have a rising profile and it is paying off," she said.

TOO SMALL TO BE REPORTED

Meanwhile, two sites that received considerable publicity during the conventions, Voter.com and the Pseudo Online Network (pseudo.com), had relatively small showings in the Media Metrix ratings.

Media Metrix indicated the number of visitors to both sites was too small to report at the GOP convention. Voter.com had 117,000 unique visitors at the Democratic convention. (Media Metrix normally reports only sites with more than 200,000 unique visitors in a week).

Broadband content site Pseudo, which provided 360-degree cameras and live anchors at the GOP convention, scaled back for the Democratic convention by dropping the cameras and switching to remote anchors.

Jeanne Meyer, senior VP at Pseudo, said since the site relaunched this spring and is in beta test, "it didn't surprise us that we didn't show up in the report."

She said before the formal launch later this year that will include advertising and promotions, the site generated 250,000 inquiries per month. Pseudo has questioned the use of current Web ratings systems, saying a viewer who watches its streaming video for hours is counted the same as a viewer who may spend only seconds on a Web page.

Michael Bustamante, communications director for Voter.com, also disputed Media Metrix data, saying his company's numbers indicated 200,000 unique visitors for the GOP convention and 250,000 for the Democratic convention. He attributed the gain to people becoming more aware of politics this year after the GOP convention.

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