By Eric Auchard
It's debatable how big a deal any specific news event is compared to
all the other human mayhem that occurs each day. Journalists, editors,
historians and the guy at the end of the bar could probably never
A news mapping service introduced on Thursday by Akamai Technologies
Inc. promises to give unprecedented insight into the relative hunger
that millions of Internet users have to learn of breaking events
Akamai, which helps speed delivery of 15 percent of the world's
Internet traffic over its network, is looking to count the sum of page
requests across 100 major news sites it serves to rank interest in
major events on a scale never seen before.
The Akamai Net News Index provides a map of six global regions and
measures the current appetite for news relative to average daily
demand in terms of millions of visitors to news sites per minute, per
week, within each geographic region.
Spikes in traffic can reveal the next wave of news demand.
"You have never really been able to look at big news events in this
way," Akamai Chief Executive Paul Sagan said in a phone
interview. "When you can get down to the minute of a day and correlate
spikes in news site traffic, you can really begin to see what was
going on at that moment," he said.
This aggregate news site data -- the company stresses that it does not
track individual surfing habits -- is now available publicly on the
Web at http://www.akamai.com/en/html/industry/net_usage_index.html/
In two-and-a-half months of testing before the index introduction,
Akamai found the biggest Internet news events were the London bombings
on July 7, Hurricane Emily July 15, the combined effects of the Space
Shuttle launch and monsoon in India on July 26. The fourth most
popular recent Web news event was the June 13 Michael Jackson verdict,
Akamai data showed.
Sagan says his Cambridge, Massachusetts-based company plans to make
the data available to its customers and members of the public to see
what ways they put the information to work.
The news index is in the spirit of the Internet Archive's WayBack
Machine, which provides snapshots of vast reaches of the Web in order
to preserve online history, or the various Internet Weather Reports,
which give Web surfers a glimpse of how essential networks on the
Internet are functioning.
IN A PLACE TO KNOW
Because its computers serve up billions of pages of news to Internet
readers each day, Akamai is in the unique position of being able to
track news consumption on a global scale.
Akamai believes it is in a unique position to be able to track news
consumption on a global scale. At any point in time, millions of PC
users (and growing numbers of Web-connected mobile phone users) are
viewing news on the Internet.
Some of the 100 participating news sites include the U.S.-centered
NBC, XM Satellite Radio and ESPN, LeMonde in France and the global
audiences of CNN.com and Reuters.com.
Other major sites in the Americas, Europe and Asia cannot be named,
Sagan said. "We think we have a pretty representative sample" of the
world's major Internet news sites, he said.
When news breaks, studies show that the Internet is displacing
television and print media for instant information. Sagan said the
index could act as early warning system on major news events, or for
retrospective trend research later.
"How do you measure an event of a certain magnitude?" Sagan asked. "No
one know what that means really," he said, adding that: "We are going
to let people draw their own conclusions."
Sagan hopes the service can be used to help reveal geographic and
sociological trends in public spectacles. Data generated by the index
could be used by advertisers and investors to map social patterns and
make buying decisions.
"How much did it grab public attention? What economic effect did the
news have?" Sagan asks. "We can get a real-time, exact view of the
Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.
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