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Are Web Traffic Trends The Best Way To See What's Happening In The World?


Image via Leon Seibert on Unsplash

For most people, it's hard to imagine a day going by without using the internet. Without it, you wouldn't be reading this. It's estimated that nearly 4.8 billion people, or about 61% of the world's population, currently have internet access.


With such a large portion of the world depending on the internet for so many aspects of their lives, studying trends in web traffic can provide a lot of valuable insights. Web analytics company SimilarWeb has done just that in its recently released 2020 Digital Trends report. Many of the top digital trends aren't too surprising, but are interesting to analyze further nonetheless.


Global web traffic continues its steady increase, with the total traffic to the top 100 websites averaging 223 billion monthly visits last year. This represents growth of 8.0% and 11.8% from 2018 and 2017, respectively. Mobile traffic continues to outgrow desktop traffic, with mobile traffic now representing 52% of total traffic. Mobile traffic has grown 30% since 2017, while desktop traffic has declined 3% over the same period.


Just like the gains in the S&P 500 are increasingly driven by a few stocks, the same can be said about web traffic for the top 100 websites. The top ten websites saw a 10.7% increase in traffic last year compared to a 2.3% increase for the remaining 90. Google, YouTube, Facebook, Baidu and Wikipedia are the top five most popular websites, with Amazon, Twitter and Instagram following. Thankfully for Facebook it acquired Instagram, because Facebook's traffic fell 7% from 2018 and nearly 20% from 2017. 


As United States total household debt surpassed $14 trillion last year for the first time, web traffic to shopping websites shows that's not all too surprising. All nine online shopping categories showed growth last year, with Amazon receiving 69% of total shopping traffic since 2017. After jumping nearly 12% from 2017 to 2018, daily web traffic during the week of Black Friday actually declined 0.1% over the last year. Interestingly, daily web traffic during the week of Amazon's Prime Day, which is in July, jumped more than 8% over the last year after declining by 4% from 2017 to 2018. 


One of the not-so-surprising findings in the report is that news publishers are having a very difficult time. Traffic to the top 100 media websites dropped 5.3% over the last year and 7% since 2017. Finance and Business and Women's Interest are the only two categories that have seen increases in web traffic. Interestingly, websites that are left- or right-leaning have seen traffic grow while those that are politically centered have seen traffic fall.


Web traffic to the top 100 finance websites was essentially flat last year. Traffic to cryptocurrency websites jumped in 2017 as they hit all-time highs, only to subsequently fall the last two years. While "too big to fail" banks have shown essentially flat web traffic, which is expected, there's been a notable increase in traffic to fintech companies such as mobile only banks, personal financial management apps and payment apps.


With so much time spent on the internet these days, analyzing web traffic trends is an invaluable resource to see what is going on in the world. It will be interesting to see how these trends change in the years to come and the implications they'll have on society and the economy.


Leftover Crumbs

  • SoftBank reports another dismal quarter. SoftBank Group's quarterly profit fell 99% from the same period a year earlier as the Vision Fund continues to wreak havoc on the Japanese conglomerate. Softbank reported profits of 2.6 billion yen, or about $24 million, compared to 438 billion yen a year earlier. The Vision Fund swung to an operating loss of 225 billion yen, or about $2 billion, compared to a 176 billion yen profit a year earlier. SoftBank founder Masayoshi Son also said the second Vision Fund will be scaled back in size and use only SoftBank's capital to invest.

  • Coronavirus is a boon to mortgage refinancing. As mortgage rates sit near three-year lows amidst fears in the market over coronavirus, refinance activity saw a notable jump last week, according to the Mortgage Bankers Association. Refinance volume jumped 5% last week and 207% versus the same period last year. "The mortgage market continues to be active in early 2020, as applications increased for the third straight week. Rates also rose, but still remained close to their lowest levels since October 2016," said Joel Kan, MBA economist. "The refinance index climbed to its highest level since June 2013, and refinance loan sizes also increased as a result of an active jumbo lending market."

  • The Fed can't find inflation though. The Walt Disney Company has hiked prices for tickets to its Anaheim theme park Disneyland. One-day park-hopper tickets for the busiest days jumped from $199 to $209, marking the first time a ticket has surpassed the $200 mark. The price of the cheapest annual pass rose 5% to $419 from $399. "A visit to our parks is the best value in entertainment bar none, and we offer flexible choices to enable families to choose what’s best for them," a Disneyland spokesperson said.

  • Sounds like a serious issue. Tesla is recalling 15,000 Model X vehicles due to an issue that could cause a loss of power steering assist and potentially lead to crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Transport Canada said bolts may corrode, causing a reduction or loss of power steering assist. The recall applies to 2016 Model X models, while the NHTSA said no crashes have been reported due to the issue. Tesla will contact owners of the model to let them know when parts are available to correct the issue.

  • Can't crave it if you don't see it? In an effort to fight child obesity, Unilever is updating its marketing principles to not target children under 12 years old. The World Health Organization named childhood obesity one of the largest public health issues of the 21st century. Unilever will also limit its use of cartoon characters to products that meet specific nutritional guidelines. "It’s a move designed to help parents, caregivers and kids make informed choices about the food and drinks they buy, and to address the rise of social media, and the vast increase in products on sale," Unilver said.