Obama boosts sales and web traffic

AFTERNOON wrap-arounds and spikes in traffic on leading newspaper websites marked the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States yesterday.

Newspapers put on extra staff and ran true 24-hour newsrooms to make sure their readers across the region did not miss a moment.

In Sydney, arch-rivals The Daily Telegraph and Sydney Morning Herald put out afternoon editions to catch the commuters. The Telegraph invested marketing dollars in spruiking its special on commercial radio stations – a strategy that would have also helped the Herald’s sales figures at the newsagent.

Other souvenir editions featured in the many cities of Australia and New Zealand and early indications are that newspaper sales increased as a result.

Coverage also marked a growing management maturity within the editorial departments, as online and print colleagues combined to ensure an integrated coverage and resisted the temptation to duplicate projects.

“The inauguration demonstrated that we are getting much better at planning who does what across the network of News Limited mastheads,” said the editor of news.com.au, David Higgins. “So, rather than seven sites producing seven identical picture galleries, we have more journalists assigned to unique projects, which is a better result for our readers.”

His website had six journalists working through the night. “One of the most pleasing parts of the process,” said Mr Higgins, “was seeing all of News Limited’s mastheads work together to co-ordinate editorial and multimedia content for the network for online and print.”

News Ltd colleague Nic Hopkins, of The Australian, said his newspaper had “people on from 3am with correspondents filing from 3.30am out of Washington.”

“We have seen an estimated 30 per cent increase in traffic, with much of that caused by strong Google representation, a large number of picture galleries and a higher-than-average volume of videos, plus we completely changed our homepage template to provide saturation coverage of the inauguration,” Mr Hopkins said.

“This met or even slightly exceeded our expectations.”

Back at news.com.au, Mr Higgins said: “I can tell you that Tuesday was the biggest day of the year so far for news.com.au with about 650,000 total unique visitors — and we expect Wednesday’s figures to be in excess of that.”

Mr Higgins said he would not know the final figures until later Thursday, “but our servers have been working over-time”.

Another News Ltd property, Brisbane’s couriermail.com.au, reported a “marginal increase in page impressions (with) unique visitors about average”. Editor John Grey said the increase was in “our normal main traffic times, not overnight”.

“We had a news editor from online updating the site and a print team preparing a souvenir print edition for inner-city counter sales,” Mr Gray said.

At Fairfax Media, online editor-in-chief Mike Van Niekerk, who has charge over the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age of Melbourne, said: “I can’t give you accurate figures just at this time.

“Events such as the presidential inauguration are significant new events that we will always do something special for, for our readers. All I can say is that we had additional staff overnight to work on our coverage.”

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