NYTimes.com Couldn’t Cope With Bin Laden Traffic

Some readers couldn't access stories

Last night, those visitors to The New York Times' website who were eagerly hunting for news about Osama bin Laden’s demise may have hit a wall. It wasn’t the new digital paywall, though. Instead, NYTimes.com experienced a glitch "entirely related to an unprecedented surge in traffic," said Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications.

Starting shortly after the news broke that bin Laden had been killed, and continuing on for a period of about 30 minutes, users who were not logged into the Times’ site were unable to access articles. For registered users who were logged into the site, everything worked fine, according to Murphy.

Murphy said that the newspaper considers the impact of this technical snafu to be "relatively minor because the newsroom published the bin Laden story as a blog post, which was accessible to all users," whether logged in or not. (Some Adweek employees trying to access the site saw bigger technical issues; one couldn’t load any articles on the site.) Additionally, Murphy said that the Times’ home page and section fronts were never affected and continued to serve visitors as usual, and that the technical issues were "resolved quickly."

In March, when the Times launched the paywall, the company promised that if significant news broke the newspaper would take down the wall and allow open access to all visitors. Fortunately for the Times, that assertion will go untested for the time being, because the news broke on the first of the month, when the paywall meter resets for all users.