The events of Sept. 11 galvanized people as never before, tethering them to TV but also to the Internet that proved, overall, to be a reliable and robust medium.
"When you look at what happened to traffic on news sites, there's no question that online media has become part and parcel of everyone's life," said Charles Buchwalter, VP-media research, Jupiter Media Metrix.
Traffic to news and information Web sites such as CNN.com and MSNBC.com skyrocketed. Jupiter estimated 34.4 million unique visitors flocked to such sites in the week ended Sept. 16, vs. 19.1 million the previous week. The high fell to 27.8 million a week later before settling in at 23.3 million unique visitors in the week ended Sept. 30.
Traffic remained fairly constant, with the number of unique visitors ranging from 17 million to 25 million for the rest of 2001 and into early 2002. Internet analysts said people have to some extent continued their daily diet of online news, following the latest developments in the war on terror.
"The overall trend is toward more unique visitors and more time spent," Mr. Buchwalter said. "It would appear by these numbers that people got so used to going to the news sites that even when the day-to-day interest level declined, it has ratcheted up the general level of usage of these sites."
Time spent on news sites, not surprisingly, spiked during the week ended Sept. 16. But in subsequent weeks through the week ended Jan. 20, total time spent on news sites was up around 27%, compared with the four weeks prior to the tragedy.
Traffic to entertainment/games sites held up well in the months after the tragedy, slipping only slightly during the week ended Sept. 16 and revealing that when all is said and done, the games must go on. Gaming enthusiasts are less likely to abandon their passion even during a crisis; gaming offers escape and the chance to slay on-screen enemies. "There was a continual uptick [in the category] all the way through Christmas and a very modest correction in the amount of time people spent on this category," Mr. Buchwalter said.
Though online advertising hasn't been spared from the slump seen in traditional media, the depressed online ad sector also didn't have as far to fall. Analysts and digital media planners said excess online inventory remains an issue in the months after Sept. 11. But, they said, it was already a problem before the attacks. Six months after the terror, there are more eyeballs fixated on online news, proving the medium's mettle.