As more and more news sites fly or die based on their page view numbers, there is an understandable interest in the business in services and social networks that drive traffic to news websites. So when StumbleUpon's founder Garrett Camp claimed that his site drives more than half of all social media referral traffic in the US, it was expectable that the announcement made waves in the web news world.
Although those numbers were plausibly contested by Forbes's Jeff Bercovici, there is no denying of the fact that StumbleUpon, a service that helps users discover web pages based on their interests and other users' recommendations, is becoming an important player in the web's link economy and one that web publishers shouldn't overlook.
Poynter also discussed Camp's claim, noting that although StumbleUpon's 15-million user base seems modest in comparison with Facebook and Twitter, the number is on the rise. Perhaps more importantly, there is an apparent distinction in the ways the sites are used to share content. While Facebook and Twitter are mostly used for sharing breaking or local news, the stories on StumbleUpon tend to discuss interesting, bizarre or otherwise untimely subjects. This makes it a good complimentary service to other traffic drivers, both from the readers' and publishers' point of view.
Poynter went on to note how news websites could optimise their content for StumbleUpon. For example the StumbleUpon badge, which is much like the Facebook and Twitter buttons, was launched in June, making it possible for users to recommend sites on StumbleUpon.
There are also other aspects to consider, such as the fact that StumbleUpon usually sends users to sites that are new to them. It should be made easy for a new visitor who likes the site to follow it.
As a sign of the importance traffic numbers have to news websites, it was earlier reported that more and more news sites are using services that go beyond tracking page view numbers by analysing how stories should be positioned on the page for optimum traffic.