Who Actually Clicks on Those Pesky Links Anyway?

Considering how, “in recent months, news aggregators like the Huffington Post have received heated criticism from some who believe theyâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢re stealing valuable traffic and ad revenue from newspapers,” with even “appeals court Judge Richard Posner recently wr[iting] a widely-linked post arguing that copyright law should be changed in order to bar linking to websites and paraphrasing their content,” media blogger Simon Owens (Bloggasm.com, 7/6/09) has conducted an experiment to evaluate the premise of corporate media management “that news aggregators simply repackage news so thereâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s little incentive to click on the actual link”:

So how much traffic does a large news aggregator like Huffington Post bring? Iâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢ve been linked several times within Huffington Post, but typically on its users blogs, which only send a few hundred readers at most. But on early Friday I was fortunate enough to be featured prominently on Huffington Postâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s front page with a banner headline linking to one of my articles.

How much traffic did this link bring? Lots. For the first three hours I received approximately 4,000 unique visitors an hour to just that one article. Traffic for the rest of the day remained strong, not once dipping below 2,000 uniques an hour as the link began traveling down the front page. By midnight that night, Huffington Post had sent approximately 30,000 unique visitors to that one article.

But though the first dayâ┚¬Ã¢”ž¢s worth of traffic was the heaviest, the Huffington Post continued to send me strong traffic for two more days as the link moved down on its main page but remained prominent on its highly-trafficked Politics page.

“All together,” Owens tells us, he “received a grand total of 37,739 unique visitors from a prominent link on the Huffington Post over a three day period,” while days later “still seeing relatively strong traffic from there”–which all sounds like decidedly good news for linked-to big media outlets, doesn’t it?