In December 2009, the Huffington Post saw unique visitors climb more than 150 percent from the year before, and without the help of an election to drive readers to the site as well known for its political bloggers as for its broad aggregation.
According to ComScore data released last week, HuffPo had 9.8 million unique visitors last month, compared to 3.8 million in December 2008. This increase could be attributed in part to the site’s launch of a number of new verticals, including HuffPost Sports, which debuted in November. (That month drew 7.9 million unique visitors.)
With numbers like this, the site is quickly climbing past other newspapers’ sites.”It simply validates what we do and reaffirms our goal to become America’s online newspaper,” the Huffington Post’s president Greg Coleman told FishbowlNY.
Coleman, who took over the newly created post in September, said reaction to the numbers internally and among advertisers and marketers has been “through the roof.”
“When I joined, I didn’t know that our numbers were going to shoot up like a rocket,” he added. “When I started, our unique visitors were at about 6.8 million, and now 9.8 million is starting to get right up there, solidly ahead of The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal, and getting close to The New York Times.”
Although Coleman agreed that HuffPost Sports could be behind the recent rise in visitors, thanks in part to its coverage of the Tiger Woods scandal in recent weeks, he also said the numbers can’t be attributed to just one thing. “This is my belief: we’re at a tipping point, and I think we’ve hit a nerve,” he told us. “It’s all part of the viral nature of what we do here, with word of mouth and being able to get some of the most important stories high on the Google ranking. It’s a mix between our Facebook Connect application, search engine optimization and picking the right stories with the right blend of hard news and entertainment.”
In the past year, the Huffington Post has gotten flack for pairing sensational entertainment content (slideshows of red carpet fashions and barely dressed actresses) and link bait next to serious content about world events, politics and philanthropy. Coleman told us that mix is what makes HuffPo so successful.
“Every reader wants certain kinds of information, and we’ve figured out a way to put that together,” he explained. “For example, my friends who work on Wall Street, they can’t go to the office unless they’ve read Page Six. We let people read a story on Afghanistan, then a big entertainment piece, then sports. People have a variety of interests. We’ve figured out the formula for what people want to read.”
Now it’s time for Coleman and his team to monetize the site’s growing readership, which is highly educated and affluent, making it especially attractive to advertisers. To accomplish this, Coleman has assembled a team including a handful of people he worked with at Yahoo.
And Coleman and his team might have even more visitors to boast of to advertisers, thanks to new, enhanced site metrics. Last month, HuffPo revealed the first data from ComScore’s newest measuring system, ComScore Direct, which uses site “beaconing” instead of panel-only measurement. For November, the site had 17.7 million unique visitors, according to this new measurement, and in December that number reached 20 million.
“The growth of this property, particularly one that people thought would be petering out after the election, is just incredible,” Coleman said. “It just continues to rock.”
Related: As HuffPo Grows, Arianna Huffington Makes Some New Year’s Resolutions –Daily Finance
Previously: HuffPost Appoints New President And CRO