HOME
          
LATEST STORY
The New Inquiry: Not another New York literary magazine
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
June 1, 2011, 12:30 p.m.

Bin Laden (and cats!) deliver record month for news sites

Screen shot of 'Cats of War' graphic on Slate

Jacob Weisberg, chairman of the Slate Group, tweeted an impressive statistic Tuesday afternoon: “Slate’s biggest traffic month ever is ending with a sprint to 100m PVs.”

The final tally for May was 101 million pageviews, in fact, according to Omniture data Slate editor David Plotz shared with us. That number rises to 106 million if you include traffic to Slate’s mobile site and apps. Slate.com attracted 15 million unique visitors, also a record, and 16 million uniques if you count the mobile users. Plotz said that’s almost double the numbers of a year ago.

“A lot of people had a good month because of Osama bin Laden,” Plotz said. “I can’t say for sure that we benefited more than other people…but the first few weeks of the month were outrageous.”

The magazine’s No. 1 story last month was not about bin Laden per se, but related: Cats of War, a slideshow revealing “the Pentagon’s top-secret feline special-operations program.” That cunning bit of lolcattery brought in a cool 3.7 million pageviews, Plotz said. Other top stories included William Saletan’s piece arguing Osama bin Laden’s porn stash might have harmed his image more than his record of mass murder, as well as Annie Lowrey’s explainer on who gets the FBI’s $25 million OBL bounty (no one).

Slate has made a lot of changes that are technical, not editorial, to grow its traffic over the past six months — starting around the time the New York Observer called it out for being “as technologically sophisticated as Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.”

The magazine has since hired a new technology director, Dan Check, to improve search engine optimization; and an “innovations editor,” Katherine Goldstein, who managed the relaunch of The Slatest as a HuffPost-y news blog. The Slatest saw a 30 percent jump in pageviews from April to May, from 1.8 million to 2.6 million. Inbound traffic from Facebook and Twitter grew 600 percent over the year before, Plotz said, and editors are continuing to experiment with social media. Slate’s popular Twitter feed has become more conversational, less institutional, and a touch political at times.

Slate is still stuck with a gray-haired content management system that generates numbers instead of words for URLs, which Google looks upon unfavorably. Plotz said that will change soon: The Slatest is using a new CMS as a pilot for the rest of the site.

It was also big month for Slate’s sister publication, Foreign Policy. Editor Susan Glasser said 2.9 million visitors viewed more than 21 million pages in May, a record. Again, Osama bin Laden drove the traffic — but Rebecca Frankel’s photo essay on war dogs (upon which Slate’s war cats slideshow was based!) was FP’s “biggest viral Internet hit ever,” generating about 8 million pageviews. Even without the war dogs, Glasser said, traffic is double that of a year ago.

Slate’s competitors at The Atlantic cleaned up, too, reports Business Insider. That newly web-focused magazine recorded 10 million unique visitors for May, a record, about twice as much traffic as at this time last year, even with the departure of Andrew Sullivan.

How did your news site do traffic-wise in May? Share your data in the comments.

POSTED     June 1, 2011, 12:30 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
The New Inquiry: Not another New York literary magazine
For New Inquiry publisher Rachel Rosenfelt, building cultural significance was easy — building a sustainable business is the hard part.
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABC, the AP, Breaking News, The Guardian, and The New York Times have all updated apps (or introduced new ones) to take advantage of new features on iOS 8.
How the new Wall Street Journal iPad app is taking advantage of new features in iOS 8
The app, released with the operating system today, has more functionality in notifications and lets users continue reading articles across Apple devices.
What to read next
749
tweets
How a Norwegian public radio station is using Snapchat to connect young listeners with news
“A lot of people check their phones before they get out of the bed in the morning, and they check social media before the news sites.”
724When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another
Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.
691Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
WyoFile
La Nación
Storify
MediaBugs
Hearst
Forbes
St. Louis Beacon
Newsmax
Grist
Dallas Morning News
Chi-Town Daily News
The Philadelphia Inquirer & Daily News