Intense interest in the outcome of the U.S. presidential election helped drive record traffic to news sites, according to Akamai Technologies.
At 8 p.m. PST, just as word was coming that Barack Obama had won the election, Akamai's Net Usage Index showed more than 8.5 million worldwide visitors per minute to the company's aggregate set of news sites. Not all of the traffic, of course, may have been specifically to election coverage, but the relative audience size in the index does correlate strongly to particular events.
Tuesday night's total was a big jump from the previous record of 7.3 million, set in June 2006, when Ghana eliminated the United States in a World Cup soccer event. Sporting events--most notably the U.S. March Madness basketball tournament--dominate Akamai's top 15 results for visitors per minute.
The next highest election-related event now is No. 15, from November 8, 2006, for that year's voting results. That nonpresidential election accounted at its peak for 4 million visitors per minute.
Peak traffic to the events has generally come during the middle of the U.S. workday, when people presumably have been at work computers that are plugged into high-speed networks. On Tuesday night, 7.5 million of the 8.5 million visitors to the news sites were from North America, Akamai said.
"This was an evening peak, which shows how pervasive the Internet is to our lives now," said Jeff Young, director of corporate communications for Cambridge, Mass.-based Akamai, which handles Web traffic for a wide variety of companies.
On Wednesday morning, traffic to the news sites remains well above normal, according to the 3-year-old Net Usage Index. Akamai's customers in the news business include the BBC, Reuters, NBC, NPR, and CNET Networks (publisher of CNET News).
Beet.TV, meanwhile, said it heard from CNN that the traffic to CNN.com also set a record Tuesday--more than 27 million unique visitors and 4.9 million live streams. Andy Plesser, executive director of Beet.TV, offers this brief interview from Tuesday afternoon with an exultant Susan Grant, executive vice president of CNN News Services (on right).