Race to the Finish: NBC Stakes its Claim to the Olympics Online

When I last posted, the world was eagerly awaiting the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and I was tracking online performance of two major websites for these Games: NBCOlympics.com and Vancouver2010.com. Even though that was less than two weeks ago, it seems a lot has changed.

To be fair, I’m not exactly picking up where I left off. Last time I used monthly unique visitor metrics to determine which website was leading in terms of online performance. In order to give you an update during the Games themselves, I couldn’t wait for February metrics to be released. Instead, using a metric called "Daily Reach," I am able to monitor these websites during the first week of the Olympics in almost real-time. Daily Reach measures the percentage of all people in the US internet browsing population (IBP) that day that went to a specific website. It helps us measure the relative popularity of one site against another.

Also, I received some questions last time about the global makeup of these two websites. It’s important to remember that Compete currently tracks US traffic only – so all those people logging on from Canada or any other country across the globe aren’t included in these metrics.

With that out of the way, let’s remember that as of January 2010, Vancouver2010.com had a decent lead in online traffic over NBCOlympics.com. Switching our metric to Daily Reach, let’s look at how these sites have stacked up since the Opening Ceremonies.

Read as: Of all the people in the US Internet Browsing Population on 2/13/10, 0.97% visited NBCOlympics.com

A couple of things to note here: first, NBCOlympics.com has roughly double the Daily Reach of Vancouver2010.com over the first week of the Olympic Games. That’s a big switch from the pre-Games period in January. Second, the Daily Reach for NBCOlympics.com is much more volatile than that of Vancouver2010.com.

The day after the Opening Ceremonies (Saturday) was the most popular day to visit NBCOlympics.com, when people were likely looking to recap the Ceremonies and / or find out the schedules of their favorite events. Daily Reach then peaks again on Thursday and Friday, the days after two of the most exhilarating Olympic contests so far. On Wednesday night the US had its most successful day in Winter Olympics history, winning an astounding 6 medals (3 gold!). On Thursday night American Evan Lysacek defeated Russian Evgeni Plushenko to win men’s figure skating, which was the first time an American man has taken gold since 1984.

Another daily metric that we often use at Compete is Daily Attention. Similar to Daily Reach, we are comparing one site’s performance against the US IBP. With this metric however we are looking at the time spent on a website as a percentage of the total time spent online by the US IBP that day. Daily Attention for NBCOlympics.com and Vancouver2010.com is below.

Read as: Of all the time people in the US spent online on 2/13/10, 0.06% of it was spent at NBCOlympics.com

Again, NBCOlympics.com has a strong advantage over Vancouver2010.com with nearly double the Daily Attention during the first week of the Games. And similar to the last chart, Daily Attention remains largely flat for Vancouver2010.com while NBCOlympics.com is more volatile. The real difference here though is the upwards trend in NBCOlympics.com’s Daily Attention. As the days pass, more and more time appears to be spent on the site (with a small dip this past Saturday). This is likely due to the accumulation of content on the site as events take place and results tallied.

While it appears that NBCOlympics.com started off slowly, so far during the Olympics it has come roaring back. Leading Vancouver2010.com in both Daily Reach and Daily Attention, it looks like NBCOlympics.com is making a move late in the game to win the race. With the Olympics winding down this coming Sunday night, will it be a mad dash to the finish? Who will be the ultimate Olympic champion?