How Much Traffic is the New York Times Worth?

Discussing a blog post on the Guardian’s site, Robert writes about referral traffic–the number of visitors he receives when he’s referenced on other sites:

Every time I get on TechMeme I get 500 to 3,000 visits. That matches what the Guardian and what Nick Carr are seeing.

But, truth is not many sites out there do any better. Yeah, when I get on Digg I get 20,000. When I got on the front page of the BBC a couple times in the past month I got 5,000 each time. But Valleywag? I get 100 to 1,000 visits…

Dave Winer? A few thousand per link, but sometimes only a few hundred. Wired? A few thousand. Stumbleupon? I got tens of thousands once, but not lately. Twitter? A few hundred, even when dozens of people put my link up.

Those numbers sound about right to me. Robert’s cult of personality probably amplifies things a bit–I’ve never seen more than 15,000 visitors from a single Digg post on this or any of my clients’ sites.

My best example of disappointing referral numbers is the recent link to this site in the New York Times. The New York Times! The Grey Lady! They get 450,000 visitors a day. Surely that would result in a windfall of referral traffic, right?

Not so much:

Traffic from the Times

The Times was the #8 referrer to this site for July, 2007. I mean, I love each and every one of you 760 Times readers, but you didn’t bring enough friends.

Now obviously, context matters. The Times link was just in the sidebar of an article, among sundry other links. Plus it helps if there’s something really enticing at the other of the link.

Which brings me to a related truth: offline media hits rarely result in radically increased online visitors. We emphasize this to our clients over and over. There’s plenty of value in doing traditional, offline media relations, but in my experience, an immediate influx of visitors isn’t one of them.


  1. I was waiting for that last paragraph since I have noticed that the number of visitors one week before an done week after these large spikes are not usually statistically significant.

  2. Years ago, when my traffic numbers were smaller, a mention in a newspaper or other offline medium would spike my visitor numbers. Now that the background numbers are much higher, I hardly notice that kind of mention. On the other hand, a link from Jason Kottke or Digg will triple my traffic for a day or two.

    Of course, that doesn’t help much when, like this morning, my website is mysteriously down for no reason…

  3. Darren,

    I consider myself lucky when I get 30 daily visitors 😦

    Clearly, you are used to some major traffic! 🙂

    Darn it, I need to do something to bump up my numbers…

  4. Raul: Heh, I guess it is relative. Still, you’d imagine that the NYT would send a firehose of traffic, you know?

  5. I guess it can vary. when one of my blog posts got dugg and delicious’d a year ago, I had a 30k spike and had a traffic increase for several months. Part of that was from getting a couple hundred links from the blog post, via blog, websites and forums.

    It’s still the 2nd most popular page on my blog after the home page.

    While short burst of traffic are nice, the most important traffic benefit you’ll get is if enough readers link to your post, instead of just reading it.

    Then you’ll benefit from long term continual traffic via the links and the traffic the search engines will give you for ranking higher for your related keywords.

    But as too offline media driving online traffic I agree. When I’ve been interviewed in the regular media I didn’t get much online traffic from it.

  6. An old media saw is that you need to be seen/heard in 3 different mediums before someone will check out your product. This is usually brought up in a sales meeting, but there definitely is truth to it.

    If you’re mentioned in the New York Times, people may not click on your site, especially, as you note, in a sidebar link. But, the next time they’re on Digg, or on any other site that links to you, they may be X times more likely to click on your link, as they have something to associate you with and the ‘stamp of quality’ of a major media property.

  7. Darren,

    I totally agree. By the way, I linked back from this post to my blog, but since I’m a total tech newbie, it may or may not show as a trackback. I tried to trackback to another comment from Rebecca (Miss604), so just learning about blogging from trial-and-error.

    And yeah, I agree – NYTimes should send you a massive firehose of referrals! Besides, you write good stuff.

  8. Raul: Hmmm…I didn’t get a trackback, but frankly, they’re a bit unreliable. Feel free to try again.

  9. You know what surprised me most? When, many moons ago, I got mentioned in the Guardian on page 2, by a lazy journalist who Googled for opinions, a lot of people seem to have manually typed the URL, as it resulted in a lot higher traffic with no referring sources overnight. (Of course, it dropped by the next day)

    A great slow-burn source of traffic has been writing for things like Digital-Web magazine, unlike Digg traffic which is like a drive-by shooting, and leads to little lasting readers.

    Interesting comparison, even though hearing about Scoble’s traffic figures is depressing for us little weenie bloggers! 🙂

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