January 2014 Digital Boxscores Analysis: ‘Tis The Season…For Resolutions, Red Carpets And Respites

By STEVE SMITH
03/10/2014

January traffic to major magazine sites may best be described as workmanlike. The seasonality of online behavior followed a remarkably predictable path fueled by new year’s resolutions, awards season and a break from the record cold.

Last things first: January is when many people plan their year’s vacations, and no doubt the record cold in much of the country added a sense of urgency to it all.

While some of the major travel sites saw modest declines for the month, BudgetTravel.com (+54.10% page views, +55.04% unique visitors versus December 2013) captured bargain hunters for a month that is traditionally strong for them. And the site was ready to exploit the surge.

An annual (ironically titled?) Coolest Small Towns contest fired up local enthusiasm and town pride. BudgetTravel tells min­ that it leveraged the traffic bump by adding newsletter sign-up overlays and Facebook-like prompts to flip the new traffic into loyalists. Digital project manager Ruthie Kapost says the tactic worked in adding to the direct traffic subsequently coming to the site.

The most unsurprising traffic pattern of January is the annual resolution pilgrimage to health, especially food sites. EatingWell.com (+35.51% UVs), FitnessMagaxine.com (+34.46% UVs), FitPregnancy.com (+83.98% PVs, +95.55% UVs), MensHealth.com (+9.32% PVs, +24.46% UVs), MensFitness.com (+49.45% PVs, +41.04% UVs), Prevention (+114.58% PVs, +40.06% UVs), Self.com (+47.75% PVs, +51.71% UVs) and others demonstrated just how much online energy there is behind the post-holiday rush to resolve.

There’s also some discrete successes for the month involving specific content wins. NewYorker.com (+14.31% PVs, +20.14% UVs) landed an exclusive interview with President Obama with editor and 2008 Obama campaign chronicler David Remnick (the best-selling The Bridge: The Life and Rise of Barack Obama /Knopf). Also big on the site was a timely humor post by Andy Borowitz on a surprise visitor–the Polar Vortex. Typically, NewYorker.com traffic bursts come from its reflective coverage of breaking news. In January, however, it was powered by the magazine’s traditional mix of creative editorial and good gets. All of these little wins in January set the brand up for a record breaking February.

Sunset.com’s (-15.25% PVs, +42.30% UVs) rise in audience had two perennial winners driving traffic. The annual feature on best places to live during different life stages got supercharged through an MSN featured spot and social media. But the usual suspect for online traffic–chocolate–was behind the 50 all-time best Sunset test kitchen recipes feature. Molten chocolate cakes posted on the site’s Pinterest page erupted.

Let’s face it, if January is about anything in digital media it is about awards season. Red carpet and award show breaking news have become eyeball bait of a very high order for entertainment, celebrity and fashion sites. As we pointed out in recent weeks covering Bonnie Fuller’s HollywoodLife.com (-7.80% PVs, +8.73% UVs), a new second screen behavior is helping to reshape usage patterns and raise the bar on real time editorial coverage. This is most apparent during awards ceremonies such as the Grammys, Golden Globes and the road to the Oscars. People have smartphones and tablets in their hands and laps during the telecasts, and the smart sites are helping readers freeze and recall that rush of gowns, tuxes and winners gushing on the “first screen.” We monitored a number of the major celeb magazine outlets during many of the awards shows and were pleasantly surprised at the number of sites that had tablet-friendly red carpet fashion galleries refreshed with new images in near real-time.

So, it is not surprising that EW.com (+17.09% PVs, +3.49% UVs) reports a record page view month for mobile traffic in January, as well as the second highest mobile audience reach ever. EW had its largest Golden Globe audience ever, up 11% in UVs over last year on the day of the event and up 135% for the day after. The Monday after the show also saw social media referrals drive near record traffic to mobile devices.

At UsMagazine.com (+18.84% PVs, +6.74% UVs) it was the Grammys that helped fuel some of its strongest showings for the month. A red carpet dresses gallery was the big win for the month, according to Wenner Media.

Steve Smith (popeyesmith@comcast.net) is digital media editor for min/minonline.com. He posts regularly on minonline and directs the min Webinars. Smith also co-chairs min ‘s Digital Summits, and he is based near Wilmington, Del.