iTunes makes Apple traffic sing

Numerous product launches keep Apple.com topping the list of fastest-growing sites, says new report.

Music fans flooding iTunes last month helped Apple Computer outpace Google and Amazon.com as the fastest-growing Web site among the top 10 best-known online brands, according to a report released Tuesday.

Traffic-reporting service Nielsen/NetRatings said that traffic to Apple.com rose from 19.6 million unique visitors in November 2004 to 30.8 million last month--a 57 percent jump. The number of visitors to online search engine Google climbed by 29 percent, while traffic to retailer Amazon grew 16 percent.

MapQuest--which provides free maps, driving directions and traffic reports--came in fourth with a 13 percent increase, and online media site Real Networks got the fifth highest jump with 12 percent. Yahoo, which saw a 10 percent increase in traffic from a year ago, drew the largest audience, with 104 million visitors during the month.

November is the month when consumers begin to boost their Internet surfing in anticipation of the holidays, and analysts closely watch traffic figures to project holiday spending, said Gerry Davidson, a senior media analyst at Nielsen/NetRatings.

Much of the rapid growth at Apple and Google is due to their frequent release of new products, features and services, which continuously churns up new interest for the sites, Davidson said.

For example, Apple this fall launched the iPod Nano, the latest version of the company's ubiquitous digital music player. To download music for their new players, iPod owners flocked to iTunes on the Apple Web site (Nielsen/NetRatings did not specify how many visitors came to download the iTunes software and how many came to purchase songs from the Music Store). Apple also recently made podcasts and video downloads available on iTunes. In the past year, Google has unveiled a slew of new services.

"We saw the introduction of Google Maps and Google Earth," Davidson said. "They are far outpacing the growth of the overall site. The site has seen particular increases from Froogle (a shopping comparison area on Google) and image search over past year."

When it came to the highest traffic growth among all Web sites, the companies that cater to teens and young adults fared best.

Topping the list was photo-hosting site PhotoBucket.com, which saw 15.6 million visitors last month, up 1,492 percent from the 983,000 visitors in November 2004. Social-networking sites MySpace, Facebook and Memegen.net also saw impressive year-over-year growth, increasing 752 percent, 530 percent and 446 percent, respectively, according to the Nielsen/NetRatings' report.

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