Tiger Woods sex scandal takes over the web

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The Independent Tech

The Tiger Woods sex scandal is bringing increased traffic to search engines and other internet sites.

Google and Yahoo, which combined process more than 80 per cent of all internet searches in the US, said they've seen a significant spike in traffic from people looking for information on the golf superstar and his alleged extramarital affairs.

Time Inc. says its Golf.com website, which averages 2.4 million unique viewers a month, has seen traffic spike 600 per cent since the story about Tiger broke after the Thanksgiving holiday.

The traffic is similar to levels the publications sees only during major golf championships, said Scott Novak, spokesman for Sports Illustrated Group, which publishes Golf.com.

Yahoo says searches for Woods' name are up more than 3,900 per cent over the last 30 days. Neither Google nor Yahoo would provide specifics about how many more people were searching.

But the traffic bump still is not as pronounced as those that surrounded the entertainer Michael Jackson's death in June and President Barack Obama's inauguration in January, both companies said.

Known for her off-colour commentary, Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz told financial analysts on Tuesday that the Woods story is "better than Michael Jackson dying" for helping Yahoo make money, because it is easier to sell ads against salacious content than morbid stories.

"It's kind of hard to put an ad up next to a funeral," she said.

Search volume at the peak of interest in Jackson's death was more than twice as heavy as the biggest days of searching for news about Woods, Google said.

Revelations about Woods' private life began emerging last month after he crashed his sport utility vehicle outside his home in a gated community in Florida.

Despite holding a distant second-place ranking to Google in search, Yahoo outflanked its rival last week in drawing more traffic to its sites from people searching the internet in the US for Woods' name, according to Hitwise, a research firm that studies web traffic.

Hitwise says Yahoo and Yahoo News snagged more than 17 per cent of all the traffic to major sites that came from searches of Woods' name. That's ahead of Woods' own website, CNN.com. and Google's news site.

The firm said Yahoo's popular Web portal and email service were likely big helps in attracting the traffic.

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.