Study: News sites take a huge hit on election night

Yottaa error page

It’s no surprise that this week’s hotly contested election would put the hurt on web news sites. But which outlets would do well and which would flame out? Yottaa decided to gather data on how all the major outlets would perform, and now the results are in.

The company set up its monitoring service┬áto track performance and availability of NBC, ABC, CBS News, Fox News, CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, C-SPAN and other news sites as well as Twitter and Facebook from the Friday before election day onward. The monitors ran IE9 to mimic end-user experience from a half-dozen North American cities. The monitor visited each site every 5 minutes and recorded what a person would have experienced if she had been clicking on the site at that time. The monitors captured and logged HTTP errors, connection failures and “excessively slow” page load times, according to a Yottaa blog post.

And boy, some of those load times got extremely and excessively slow as election day wore on. From 7 pm ET until Wednesday 2 am ET, most of the news sites “came to a halt,” according to Yottaa. Some “consistently took as long as 50 seconds to 60 seconds to load.”

I can attest to that. Passing through the Charlotte, NC airport at around 9 pm, I was unable to get updated news from any of the major web sites, including CNN, the New York Times and Washington Post. In fact, I ended up relying on text updates from friends who were glued to their sets in Boston. (The other alternative would have been to belly up to the bar and watch Fox News, but we all have our limits.)

The election took its toll on Twitter and Facebook as well. These pages usually load in less than 5 seconds but on Tuesday night, President Obama’s Facebook page’s load times slowed to 25 seconds after 11 pm ET and didn’t recover till after 1 am ET.

Really poor showing by major news sites

For the five days up to and including election day, the monitor found 3,800 total errors — things like HTTP errors, connection time outs etc — 80 percent of those occurred on Tuesday. The average increase in errors across all sites from Monday to Tuesday was more than 500 percent, but the Washington Post, the New York Times, and Fox News each showed increases of more than 1,500 percent.

And the winners are …

Based on its monitors, Yottaa deemed C-SPAN and CNN as the most consistent and reliable sites across the board. Each had its share of errors and performance issues but they paled in comparison to those of other media sites.

Of course, I’m sure Cambridge, Mass.-based Yottaa, which offers web site performance optimization services would love to sell them some technology to correct these issues.

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