Tiger Woods's name was the top search term sending traffic to U.S. news sites at the start of the month, as Web users sought updates on the golfer's car crash and reports of extramarital affairs, Experian Hitwise said.
"Tiger Woods" ranked first in those searches on Dec. 1, Dec. 2 and Dec. 4, the New York-based research company said. Total queries for Woods soared more than 40-fold in the week of the Nov. 27 accident, Hitwise said. It then almost doubled the following week.
Web traffic began growing after Woods had a single-car accident outside his home near Orlando, Florida. Woods, the world's top-ranked golfer, posted a statement on his Web site Dec. 2 saying he let his family down with "transgressions" and hasn't been true to his "family values." He didn't address reports of infidelity that appeared in media such as US Weekly.
"There's an almost unquenchable appetite for more content," said Pete Blackshaw, an analyst with Nielsen Co. in Cincinnati. "Traffic is taking a significant jump."
While TV ads featuring Woods have vanished from the airwaves, the scandal hasn't had that same effect online, said Rajeev Goel, chief executive officer of Palo Alto, California- based PubMatic Inc. The bulk of advertising with Woods, 33, is probably traditional media, such as television and print, said Goel, whose company helps Web publishers sell space to advertisers.
Advertising Gains?Goel expects the scandal to help sites sell more advertising. Some of PubMatic's news and entertainment customers have seen traffic double since the Woods story broke, he said.
On Google Inc.'s (GOOG) search engine, Woods-related topics were among the top 20 fastest-growing queries all but one day this month. Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO), the No. 2 U.S. search engine, said queries for Woods shot up almost 40-fold in the past 30 days. The percentage of blogs commenting on Woods has surged more than 10- fold, according to Nielsen.
Traffic to AOL Inc.'s entertainment-gossip site TMZ rose 51 percent from before the car accident, according to Hitwise.
The controversy is giving media sites a chance to win new customers, Goel said.
"There's an opportunity for these sites to bring in new readers if they can sustain the readership beyond the Tiger news," he said.