Going for the Gold in Vancouver"¦ and Online

The 2010 Winter Olympics officially kick off tonight with the Opening Ceremonies. I admit that I’m an Olympics junkie. I TiVo every round of competition for practically every sport (curling!) and watch marathon sessions from my couch protected from the cold outside by my Snuggie. I consider myself a dedicated athlete.

This year, it appears that fans are getting their viewing schedules ready early: 4 of the top 13 search terms leading to nbcolympics.com referred specifically to event or TV schedules in December. It’s common for watchers to go online for information about the Games. Most casual Olympic enthusiasts get their online info from major sports websites such as ESPN and Yahoo! Sports (my colleague Andy Kazeniac posted about this back in 2008), but in terms of dedicated Olympic sites, nbcolympics.com has been a go-to resource for years.

Unique visitors to nbcolympics.com during the month of each Olympic Games (US traffic only)

It’s amazing that the 2008 Beijing games attracted almost 3X the traffic that the previous two Olympics did during the month of the Games. The difference in time zones, political protests and Michael Phelps’ quest to make history could have all contributed to the surge in online traffic. But also consider that most Olympic host cities create dedicated websites (i.e. torino2006.com) that tend to fragment traffic. Beijing’s belonged to a .cn domain (en.beijing2008.cn), which may have been less intuitive for users in the US to find.

That is not the case this time around though. Interestingly, leading up to the Games it appears that US fans are following vancouver2010.com more than nbcolympics.com, as the chart below shows.

If NBC wants to be the #1 dedicated Vancouver 2010 site on the web, NBC needs to give visitors something that will get them to come back throughout the games. NBC does have exclusive media rights, which should be a major advantage. Immediate access to videos of performances and results, interviews with athletes and interactive features could all help NBC bring lots of people to the site and keep them coming back.

Enjoy the Opening Ceremonies tonight, and check back here later as we track the online performance of these websites and try to determine who takes home the gold medal for online traffic. Until then you’ll find me glued to the TV, keeping cozy in my Snuggie. Go USA!