How The New York Times Illuminates The World


  • Does the Global Village have its own newspaper? Maybe the New York Times is, considering its international coverage. As one of the few of the classic (paper) media, the New York Times seems to completely understand the rules of the modern media scape. In fact, the NYT does not only report about new media and upcoming trends in this field, but they host a terrific web paper as well. This means free available high quality content on a daily basis. Doing so, the New York Times has attracted a large group of international readers. The paper that started as a local daily news feed, has grown into an international source of first class information. Here’s an answer to the question where the readers from the New York Times come from and what sort of devices they use to visit the page. In the animations below one can see the impact of the New York Times’ webpage on 15 June 2009, the day Michael Jackson passed out.

    “The left video represents readers coming to the website from the United States. The right video shows a map of our global readers. The circles indicate two things. First, the yellow circles represent readers coming to the main website from desktop or laptop computers, and the orange circles indicate readers using mobile phones to access our mobile site. Second, the size of the circles represents the number of readers at that moment in time. You can see the corresponding time stamp in the upper left corner of the videos.”

    Double click the videos to watch them fullscreen.


    The 24 hour period of web log data was compressed into a little over a minute and a half. On the background the illumination during night is shown to give an idea about the geographical context. The data collected from roughly 15 webservers gives us an idea about the reach of digital media. But there’s more in it. At about 1 minute and 10 seconds into the video, at 5:20 p.m., the map lightens up. This indicates huge traffic shot happened after TMZ.com broke the news of Mr. Jackson’s death. Later this day as the news started to filter across the Internet, traffic continued to ebb and flow throughout the evening.

    In addition, it’s interesting to see the red dots that indicate the activity of cell phone users illuminating very sharply and quickly at certain moments, as if someone lights a cigarette. Actually this is what it is — checking the New York Times on your mobile device is a surrogate for smoking. This animation proves that the Internet on mobile phones has been predominantly used to have a quick look. As we take a close watch to the time, most of the flashing red dots are during rush hours. I imagine people having a quick news check while having a moment on a train or subway platform, or bus stop. Taking a shot of news can be as addictive as smoking a cigarette. New York Times editor Nick Bilton calls this the heartbeat throughout any particular day: “You can see more mobile traffic in the mornings and afternoons, as readers commute to and from work, and a large pulse of readers coming to the site around lunch time.”

    Another remarkable point is to see some US cities showed to have a higher share of (active) cellphone users. Which I can’t explain. Funny to see is that even the big international New York Times is still predominantly locally embedded and best read on the US East Coast. At the same time, the newspaper has quite an international coverage. This would have never been accomplished with only a paper printed edition.