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Friday, 26 October, 2001, 09:37 GMT 10:37 UK
War heralds internet breakthrough
Newspaper front covers
Read all about it...
The attacks on New York and Washington and the war on terrorism has given a massive boost to online news services, writes BBC News Online's Chris Horrie.

Newspapers and television news programmes are finding it difficult to hang on to the huge circulation and ratings increases they experienced in the wake of the 11 September attacks.

But internet users are staying with online news sites - logging on more often and staying longer with each visit, according Jupiter MMXI, the leading independent research group.

Home use has doubled
Online news services saw an 80% increase in use in the week following the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In the United States the number of people visiting news websites almost doubled, reaching about 12 million a day., which put live footage of the collapsing towers online, saw a 360% increase in its number of users, climbing from 272,000 to 1,257,000 in the week of the attack.

BBC News Online recorded 264 million page impressions during the month of September, of which 99m were in the first seven days after the attack.

At one point demand for the BBC site topped 7m requests an hour.

Log on, find out

The BBC was by far the most used UK-based news site.

But others also experienced huge surges in traffic.

The number of people visiting CNN's Europe site reached 455,000 during the month.

Figures for the Guardian Unlimited site reached 168,000 and Sky had 159,000 users.

youth at computer
New generation: internet audience is younger
Numbers for users of UK sites have been boosted by millions of Americans logging on.

Some commentators have suggested UK sites are providing a more balanced version of events, including criticism of the so-called war of terrorism which US sites are less inclined to air.

Doubled usage

According to Jupiter the surge in internet news use in September accelerated a trend towards greater and more sophisticated use of the web which was already well established.

In the two years since the organisation began gathering reliable information use of the internet has almost doubled, reaching just under 16 million regular users in the UK.

The latest figures show that, since October 1999, the number of minutes spent online per month has grown from 257 to 446, and the number of unique pages viewed per visitor per month has increased from 184 to 282.

Less time spent 'surfing'

There are signs, too, that many internet users have settled on a few favourite and reliable websites and spend less time "surfing".

Millions also turned to TV news on the day of the World Trade Center attack and again when the UK and American bombing of Afghanistan began.

TV news reporter
rolling: BBC's Steven Evans live in New York
A year ago the BBC's main 10pm news bulletin was getting around three and a half million viewers. On the night bombing of Afghanistan began, special BBC News and News 24 coverage attracted eight million viewers.

An ITN "news special" summary broadcast later in the evening after Coronation Street got over 12 million viewers.

Rush to buy papers

Rolling news services also experienced new peaks in numbers of viewers, though the medium as a whole suffered some damage to its image when some commercial services were accused of reporting speculation as fact.

Terror attack: Paper sales soared
Newspapers recorded big increases in circulation after the first few days of the crisis despite saturation coverage of the attack and its aftermath but they were no where near as dramatic as those for the electronic media.

In the four days after the New York attack the Daily Mail increased sales by 280,000; the Mirror by 132,000; the Sun by 122,000 and the Express by 77,000 according to the Audit Bureau of Circulation.

But by the end of the month circulations had returned to normal and, of the tabloids, only the Mail and the Star finished September 2001 with higher sales than at the same time in the previous year.

Sale of the more serious broadsheets increased the most in percentage terms - led by those taking a moderate or "anti-war" stand. The Guardian achieved a sales increase of more than 13% - by far the biggest for any UK newspaper.

Some tabloids, meanwhile, began to drop the story off the front page within days of the attack.

See also:

18 Oct 01 | Business
WH Smith sells more newspapers
25 Sep 01 | TV and Radio
Media confronts a new world
12 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
Net surge for news sites
11 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
News sites struggle under demand
12 Sep 01 | Sci/Tech
UK surfers swamp news sites
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