Report: Contest Sites Sweeping Web

Sweepstakes-style Web sites, frequented by women and people over 50, were heavily represented on the Media Metrix list of top 10 newcomer Web sites for August.

One promotional sweepstakes site,, became the first Spanish-language site to join the list, which was released Tuesday.

The top new site was Excite-owned, which had 1.96 million unique visitors in August. Next in the rankings were similar promotion-oriented sites:, with 1.26 million unique visitors, and, with 882,000 visitors. is the official site of a Microsoft contest.

No. 4 was, the auto-products site that has been providing breaking news on the recent tire recall.

Women accounted for more than half of the traffic on eight of the sites on the list. (the corporate site of household products maker SC Johnson), direct e-marketing site and sweepstakes site were the most popular with females, Media Metrix said.

Older Americans Drive List

Americans aged 50 and over, while making up just 16.5 percent of the online population, had “disproportionately heavy representation” in five of the top 10, Media Metrix said.

“Seniors are definitely a major consumer group,” Anne Rickert, measurement analyst at Media Metrix, told the E-Commerce Times.

Americans 55-and-older are more likely to own and use credit cards, own high-end electronics, and buy new, rather than used, cars, making them “potentially a very profitable group to target on line,” Rickert said.

“They’re not opening just a little window,” said Rickert. “They’re out there surfing. Older people are no longer a niche audience on the Web.”

Retirees and empty nesters, said Rickert, also tend to use the Web more for entertainment — such as sweepstakes and game sites — than other, possibly more time-pressed, segments of the population.

Reflecting a Larger Trend

The demographic data supports recent research pointing to the ascent of women and older Americans on the Internet.

A study released in August by Media Metrix and its partner, Jupiter Communications, found that women outnumber men among Internet users. Internet use by women grew by almost 35 percent between May 1999 and May 2000, compared with 22 percent growth for all Internet users.

The same study found that the number of women aged 55 and older grew by 110 percent in the same period. Meanwhile, IDC has said that Americans 55 and older are the fastest growing segment of Internet users, with the group likely to triple its Internet use by 2004.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) commissioned a national survey that found about half of Internet users aged 45 and older use the Web for comparison shopping and 39 percent had actually purchased something over the Internet.

Attraction Tips

None of the top new sites conducted online banner advertising campaigns during the month, Media Metrix said. However, many of the top newcomer sites used innovative marketing techniques to leap over competitors, according to Rickert.

“Often, site content is less important” than incentive techniques, she said. Word-of-mouth “viral marketing,” such as e-mail links that require the recipient to go to the Web site to get a greeting card from a friend, often help boost traffic to the site, she said.

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