New Media &Disasters

December 2001
by Reid Goldsborough

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During a disaster, where is the first place you should turn to for information?


You might think the Internet would be ideal. After all, it was set up by the military in the 1960s to ensure communications during a nuclear war. Yet, as recent events have shown, during a crisis other media do a better job at delivering breaking news than the Net.


Still, there are things the Net is uniquely suited for.


The Net’s biggest problem stems from its very nature. To oversimplify but only somewhat, unlike TV networks that send one signal to millions of TV sets, Web sites have to send millions of signals to millions of computer screens.


Web sites thus get overloaded if they receive too many visitors. During the hours immediately after the terrorist attacks of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the top news sites were completely bogged down. The Net’s most popular news site,, received 162 million page views on the day of the attacks, 12 times more than normal, according to the site.


Millions of people in offices throughout the country, without easy access to TV or radio, tried to find out what was happening through their computers, often without success.


Some of the big news sites tried coping by slimming down the size of their pages and adding servers, but this helped only marginally.


Television did a better job of providing second-by-second coverage of the ev…IBPA Members – Click here to view the full article (login required).

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