In conjunction with the relaunch of their website, CNN asked me to examine their web statistics and create a visual record of the site’s last 13 years. We were both interested in telling a larger story about the growth of the Internet and the public’s changing media habits through the lens of such an influential and heavily trafficked site.
The process started by determining what metrics might hold an interesting narrative, and which ones were available over the entire lifespan of the site. CNN was able to provide me with daily page views, the top 20 days for each year and the most popular pages on those days. I was also provided with monthly category views and lists of the nations visiting the site.
The spike chart of average weekly page views forms the centerpiece of the chart. The busiest 10 weeks are called out, and the events associated with the week are highlighted below the x-axis… along with other events of cultural significance or large week-over-week gains. I also tracked the absolute and relative growth of their site categories over time, and highlighted several unique metrics at the top of the chart, including the busiest and slowest days of the year, and the number of countries that visit the site (192 at last count). Finally, to put everything in context, I found milestones in the history of the Internet for each year which I placed along the bottom of the chart to create context for the narrative.
Ultimately, I think the most fascinating story here is the change in our news habits after September 11, 2001. After this day, a new and higher baseline for visits to the site is established, and the inference is that this event really established CNN.com and the greater Internet as a reliable, timely and indispensable source for news.