Last Sunday, Web traffic took a 15 percent dive from normal patterns during the afternoon and evening as Americans across the country raided supermarkets, premptively loosened belt buckles and trudged to their respective parties to watch Super Bowl XLVII. Yet while most favored the remote control or Twitter over casual browsing, Vox Media's SB Nation had a banner night, setting an all-time traffic record.
According to internal traffic numbers from Vox, SB Nation and its network of blogs drew 4.5 million unique visitors on Sunday alone, a 25 percent year-over-year increase for Super Bowl traffic. For SB Nation, this traffic caps a successful post-relaunch period for the online sports network, whose monthly uniques increased from 11 million in August to over 15 million in January, according to Quantcast.
While the 7-year-old sports network is still well behind sports juggernauts like ESPN and Yahoo Sports, in a post on the Vox Media product blog, the company announced that it served 49,632 comments on the SBN network between 4 p.m. and midnight last Sunday, boasting a level of user engagement that many portal sports sites lack.
While a hallmark event like the Super Bowl is bound to bring heavy traffic to sports sites the same way an election sets records on the Web for news networks, other major sports properties were less forthcoming with their numbers. One major sports property, which, like some of its peers, wouldn’t provide traffic figures on the record, noted that while traffic was solid, it remained flat from the year before, showing that younger, nimbler, Web-native sites may be able to draw consumers from larger, established sports media outlets.
For SB Nation, the trick appears to be the localized sports fan approach, which lets each of its 300-plus blog properties take its own approach to large events like last Sunday. The network also tapped into a seemingly insatiable hunger for high-quality original online video, producing over 40 video segments across the blog network that rivaled the production value of any network or cable coverage.
Going forward, it's doubtful that SB Nation's network will outpace the giants of the sports media industrial complex. Yet the site's ability to capitalize on big days like last Sunday shows it is poised to compete on equal footing with the some of the bigger games in town.