September was a great month to write about politics on the Web. The Los Angeles Times had an all-time-high 137 million page views, The Washington Post topped 320 million, and both Slate and the Huffington Post set their own traffic records. It's tempting to give Gov. Sarah Palin credit for these new waterlines — she's ubiquitous on every site's most-read lineup, among the most blogged-about people in the country and far and away the most searched-for political figure in America. Then again, September was also a great month for newspaper sites in 2006, with Democrats poised to retake both houses of Congress and no spunky Alaska governor on hand. So how much credit does Palin deserve for driving page views to the media elite she so disdains?
Quite a bit. Even in the midst of other major story lines — total financial catastrophe comes to mind — data from the Web analytics firm Hitwise suggest a very real Palin Effect. One of the clearest ways to measure this is by focusing on search engines. Slightly more than one-third of Palin search queries drove traffic to news and media sites, according to figures provided by Hitwise general manager Bill Tancer. Fox News received the largest share of these search referrals at 1.12 percent, followed by Time at 0.98 percent. Many other publications received at least 0.1 percent — nothing to shake a stick at, given the torrential interest in Palin.