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Web sites go back to basics for day’s coverage

Tragedy takes over focus of news sites' content

Media dot-coms shifted into emergency mode Tuesday, radically curtailing all other coverage and simplifying the layouts of their Web sites, as Netizens turned to the Internet in full force to learn the latest about the terrorist attacks.

The attacks became the only news on the sites for CNN, the New York Times, MSNBC, NBC, ABC, CBS and FoxNews.com, among others, as all other areas — business, technology, entertainment, sports — were ignored.

Although the sites initially began their coverage of the tragedy by offering big graphics, live audio and video, staffers rushed to put up text-only sites, featuring white backgrounds and black text, in an effort to make information as accessible as possible as traffic numbers surged online and slowed down the speed at which Web pages loaded.

Live video and audio feeds and streams were inaccessible for much of the day, if at all.

5% availability

Keynote Systems, which measures Internet performance, reported that the availability of some of these sites was reduced to as low as 5% moments after the attack.

“You’re seeing this page because MSNBC is experiencing high site traffic,” a disclaimer read on the cable news channel’s pared down Web site.

“We’re operating at almost a text-only mode,” said MSNBC.com spokesman Peter Dorogoff. “That’s allowing us to handle the load at the moment. We’re just promoting bare bones, stripped down news reporting. By all indications from our tech people, the site is currently getting slammed by users, but we seem to be handling the load.”

CNN.com said it saw record traffic, hitting 9 million page views an hour since the tragedy occurred. It normally generates 11 million page views per day. Likewise, MSNBC.com saw traffic rise tenfold over its average daily usage of 3 million unique users.

Yahoo revamped the layout of its popular search engine, devoting considerable space to news coverage.

Instant messaging services from Yahoo! and America Online experienced increased demand as people sought to contact friends and family.

Even online advertisements changed their tone, with the ubiquitous pop-under pages from camera maker X10 listing numbers for the Red Cross and saying that it “has suspended our service out of sympathy to the victims and families of this national tragedy. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to them.”

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