TALLYING IT UP: On the Internet, it’s been said, a rising tide lifts all ships. In May, a perfect storm of Internet-ready news — the killing of Osama bin Laden, with a dog angle, followed by a panoply of video and slideshow-ready natural disasters stories — drove many news sites to record-high traffic numbers. Slate (15.8 million unique visitors), The Atlantic (10 million), Foreign Policy (2.9 million), The Week (1.86 million) and The New Yorker (3.7 million) all recorded their best month ever in May 2011, according to their internal Omniture stats.
“Ever since January and the Arab revolutions, we’ve just seen in general a big surge in traffic,” said Foreign Policy editor Susan Glasser. “And obviously the bin Laden raid at the beginning of the month is clearly what buoyed this.” She said that the magazine’s biggest traffic-driver was a slideshow of war dogs, pegged to news that a Belgian Malinois accompanied the Navy SEALs on their raid of bin Laden’s compound. “That photo essay just went completely viral on the Internet,” Glasser said. “It’s had something like 8.2 million page views which is more than all of our site received a year ago in May.”
Contrarian Slate found its own way to marry animals and the news. “The most successful thing we did was ‘The Cats of War,’” said Slate editor David Plotz. “It was a slideshow, a parody. We just imagined the super secret cat operation that the Pentagon and the CIA has and did these great photographs. That was 4 million page views.” Plotz also noted that, in addition to the bin Laden news breaking on the first of the month, the calendar helped push the sites to record numbers. “May had a lot of weekdays in it,” he said.
Bob Cohn, editorial director of Atlantic digital, attributed his site’s record in part, not to creativity with animal angles, but to a strategy built around volume. “From 11 p.m. on Sunday to 11 p.m. on Monday we posted 86 stories to The Atlantic and 30 stories to The Atlantic Wire on bin Laden and a couple of those stories went viral,” he said.
Steven Kotok, president of The Week, said that the bin Laden news had very little to do with the record month for his team. The Week, he reiterated, is in the business of “intelligent opinion curation.” “We want to stay out of breaking news and stay out of original reporting,” he said.
— ZEKE TURNER
LUNCH FETE: Elle Decor will host a lunch this afternoon for its 2011 A-list designers at MoMA’s The Modern, which include Thom Filicia, Jamie Drake (Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s designer) and Kathryn Ireland, from Bravo’s “Million Dollar Decorator.” All the designers will be featured in Elle Decor’s June issue. It will be the first event since the shelter title became part of Hearst Magazines and David Carey, Ellen Levine and Michael Clinton are all expected to attend.
— Amy Wicks
WAVERIDER: Unlike Oprah Winfrey’s and Katie Couric’s much-anticipated prime-time good-byes, longtime “Weekend Edition Sunday” host Liane Hansen’s May 29 send-off was unquestionably quieter. The Kinks’ Ray Davies helped bid her adieu but listeners may soon be hearing Hansen’s familiar voice. Reached Monday in Bethany Beach, Del., where her summer home is now her year-round one, the NPR veteran said she is mapping out a voice-over career. Hansen will Amtrak it to New York later this month for a meeting to see how her vocal chords might be best put to use. Having narrated documentaries for Barbara Ricks and Bob Weinstein, the Peabody Award winner is keen to pursue that route, and commercials are not out of the question either. “It’s nice at the age of 60 to have somebody else looking for jobs for you. Fifteen percent of nothing is still 15 percent, right?” she said with a laugh.
Although “public radio money is not Katie Couric-kind of money,” Hansen said a lifestyle makeover was her incentive not a financial one. “I have been working hard my whole life. I don’t plan to not work,” she said. “…I am no longer bound by the ethics restriction of NPR because I no longer work for them. But I must say this — I don’t see myself doing any political advertisements.”
The NYC jaunt will also give her a chance to check out NPR’s Puzzlemaster Will Shortz’s new Ping-Pong club — the 13,000-square-foot Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville, N.Y. Until then, Hansen will do a little community theater or take a few classes to brush up on her tap dancing. “My plan for the summer is to be Gidget. I’m a 5-foot, 9-inch Norwegian Irish, so the bikini won’t work but I’m having a great time out here and there is an ocean to walk,” she said. “…And I don’t think you’ll find Snooki in any of the group houses.”
— ROSEMARY FEITELBERG