Like any good celebrity scandal, the Tiger Woods drama has triggered a spike in traffic to Web sites offering details of his Thanksgiving weekend car crash and his alleged extramarital affairs. The lift will likely be fleeting, though, as the shock of the story wears off.
One of the most heavily trafficked sites has been Woods' own site, where he has posted his only public comments about his crash and admitted to "transgressions." The site got 488,000 unique visitors the week of his crash, up from fewer than 11,000 the week before, according to The Nielsen Co.
The Orlando Sentinel, which serves the area of Woods' home, scored about 1.2 million unique visitors the week of the crash, more than 2 1/2 times the number of visitors the week before, Nielsen said.
Meanwhile, visits to the entertainment site TMZ.com and sports news site Deadspin.com, which both had scoops on the Woods story, were up more than 50 percent, according to Hitwise, another Web analysis firm.
Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., which process more than 80 percent of all Internet searches in the U.S., said they've seen a leap in traffic from people looking for information on the golf superstar. Yahoo says searches for Woods' name have increased nearly 4,000-fold over the last 30 days. Neither Google nor Yahoo would provide specifics about how many more people were searching.
The traffic bump is not as pronounced as those that surrounded Michael Jackson's death in June and President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, both companies said. However, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told an investor conference in New York this week that the Woods story was "better than Michael Jackson dying" when it came to helping Yahoo make money, because it is easier to sell ads next to salacious content.
"It's kind of hard to put an ad up next to a funeral," she said. Bartz even said Woods will "absolutely" help Yahoo achieve its financial projections this quarter, but the company now says the frequently off-color CEO was joking.
Time Warner Inc. says its Golf.com Web site, which averages 2.4 million unique viewers a month, has seen traffic jump sevenfold since the story about Woods broke. The site typically draws an audience that big only during major golf championships, said Scott Novak, spokesman for Sports Illustrated Group, which publishes Golf.com.
A lesson from earlier major news events is that Internet companies need to capitalize fast on the surge in traffic, because interest fades quickly. Google's statistics show that searches for Michael Jackson stayed strong in the days after his death but fell off dramatically after a couple of weeks.
AP Technology Writer Michael Liedtke contributed to this story from San Francisco.