comScore, Inc. (NASDAQ: SCOR), a leader in measuring the digital world, has released its monthly analysis of U.S. consumer activity at the top online properties for September 2008 based on data from the comScore Media Metrix service. The tumultuous financial markets and the upcoming presidential elections were the main drivers of Internet traffic for the month. Training and education sites gained as the fall season prompted many students to prepare for the college application process and a gloomy economic outlook led some Americans to consider going back to school.
“As the financial crisis deepens, Americans have been anxiously following the latest news on the markets and carefully watching their personal financial accounts online,” commented Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. “The ability to track the market on a minute-by-minute basis and access banking and trading accounts quickly enables Americans to make financial decisions in real-time. Whether these decisions are sound or not is another story.”
September proved to be a chaotic month for financial markets as several major banks crumbled and Congress raced to pass a $700 billion bailout plan to stabilize the financial markets. Consequently, visitation to business/finance – news/research and online trading sites soared with Americans keeping a watchful eye on the latest developments, as well as their personal finances.
Business/finance – news/research web sites saw a substantial increase in visitation in September, gaining 9 percent to more than 64 million visitors, while also increasing 16 percent in pages viewed and 29 percent in total time spent. These increases suggest that not only were more people visiting the sites in the category, but that they viewed more articles and content for longer periods of time on average.
Yahoo! Finance led the category with nearly 20 million visitors, a 30-percent jump from August. Several other sites experienced particularly strong growth amid the financial frenzy, including Russian financial site RBC.RU (up 155 percent to 1.2 million visitors), FoxBusiness.com (up 127 percent to 1.2 million visitors), and Google Finance (up 67 percent to 1.4 million visitors).
Online trading sites surged 10 percent to 12.6 million visitors in September, as investors kept watchful eyes on their dwindling portfolios and 401K’s. Fidelity Investments led the category with 3.5 million visitors, followed by ShareBuilder.com with 2 million visitors and Scottrade Sites with 1.7 million visitors. E-Trade Financial Network (up 26 percent to 1.6 million visitors), TD Ameritrade.com (up 30 percent to 1.4 million visitors) and Schwab.com (up 36 percent to 1.1 million visitors) each experienced double-digit growth.
Politics reigned as the top-gaining category for the second consecutive month, experiencing a 43-percent increase to more than 20 million visitors, as interest in the Republican National Convention in early September and the first presidential debate later in the month generated heightened interest. BarackObama.com, one of the fastest-gaining properties of the month, led the category with 5.4 million visitors (up 37 percent versus August). JohnMcCain.com ranked second in the category with 3 million visitors, a 109-percent gain from August, with the Republican National Convention and interest in vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin helping drive visitors to the site.
The college search and admission process began in September as many high school students prepared their applications and a slumping economy left some professionals considering further education. Careers services and development – training and education sites experienced a 21-percent increase to nearly 12 million visitors during the month. College Board Property, which provides resources for college entrance exams, led the category with 2.6 million visitors (up 31 percent), followed by scholarship search provider Fastweb.com with 2.6 million visitors (up 44 percent), and EduPlace.com with 810,000 visitors (up 49 percent).
Education – information sites also gained during the month with September marking the first full month that most students were back in school across the country. The category grew 11 percent to more than 73 million visitors, led by Dictionary.com with 15 million visitors (up 39 percent), Pearson Education with 13.3 million visitors (up 34 percent), and Answers.com with nearly 11 million visitors (up 29 percent).
Google Sites continued to lead as the most visited property in September with more than 144 million visitors, followed by Yahoo! Sites with 142 million visitors and Microsoft Sites with 122.3 million visitors. Wikimedia Foundation Sites, parent property of Wikipedia.org, climbed one place to capture the eighth position with 60.2 million visitors, while Glam Media moved up four spots to #10 with 52.3 million visitors. Strong interest in sports during the month of September, with Major League Baseball pennant races and the beginning of the NFL season, helped push ESPN up four spots to #32 with nearly 24 million visitors, while NFL Internet Group entered the ranking this month at #48 with nearly 18 million visitors.
Platform-A led the September Ad Focus ranking reaching 91 percent of the 189.5 million Americans online. Yahoo! Network reached 86 percent of the population followed by Google Ad Network with a reach of 83 percent. Traffic Marketplace entered the top 10 this month, capturing the ninth position and reaching 131.5 million visitors. 24/7 Real Media also experienced an increase, gaining three spots to #11 and reaching nearly 129 million visitors.
comScore Media Metrix provides industry-leading Internet audience measurement services that report details of online media usage, visitor demographics and online buying power for the home, work and university audiences across local U.S. markets and across the globe. comScore Media Metrix reports are used by financial analysts, advertising agencies, publishers and marketers. comScore Media Metrix syndicated ratings are based on industry-sanctioned sampling methodologies.