The anonymous hacker behind the cyber attack that brought down New York magazine’s website for nearly 12 hours on Sunday and Monday claims he only did it because he hates NYC. Even if the attack wasn’t personal, it couldn’t have come at a more inconvenient time for the magazine.
Only hours earlier, New York published their latest cover story titled ”Cosby: The Women,” for which they interviewed 35 of the 46 women who have come forward with allegations of sexual assault against Bill Cosby. Sure to be a groundbreaking and informative take on one of the country’s most important current events, everyone was on their toes waiting for the site to go live again so they could read it. Eventually, rather than keep everyone waiting, the magazine blasted the article in both pieces and its entirety out on social media.
“As soon as we realized that it might take a few hours to get our website back online…, we decided that it was important to post the story in full for people who wanted to read it,” Lauren Starke, a publicist for New York, told the Observer. “Once we had it ready to go on Tumblr, we used Twitter to get the word out.”
We asked if the magazine would ever again consider diverting traffic away from their site onto another like Tumblr during an outage. And would they do it for a more typical story, or was it a case of “desperate times call for desperate measures” because of the importance of the Cosby story?
“It would depend on the expected duration of the outage, but I think we’d consider doing this again for a significant story,” Ms. Starke said.
Social media turned out to be the perfect safety net when their site went dark. Through Twitter, Instagram and even Tumblr, the magazine was able to keep the hype alive with bits to hold readers over. And by posting the entire cover story (photos and all) on Tumblr, anxious readers got to read the story during the site’s downtime and on the magazine’s terms, rather than on an archive site.
But wait! What about the Traffic? What about the CLICKS?!
Even though the article was available while the site was down, many were calling on the public to hold off on reading it—even some of New York’s own writers.
If the site went down on a typical day, a few page views would be lost and all would be okay. However, the hack kept the site down for most of the first 18 hours after the story published online. This is when stories gain their traction and this was likely to be the magazines biggest (or at least most important) story of the year. It was trending on Facebook with a failing link. All roads pointed to disaster. Ms. Starke said she “had a mild panic” when she woke up at 5am to texts alerting her of the outage.
Clicks were indeed lost. By posting the full story on Tumblr, the magazine is guessing to have lost 500,000 unique visitors to the story. “But that’s probably a conservative estimate,” Ms. Starke said.
She assured us, however, that turning to the social media safety net came with some unexpected benefits.
“We are relatively new on Tumblr, and we viewed this as an opportunity to bring people to our page. (Though of course it would have been preferable if the site hadn’t gone down in the first place)” She said, adding that they gained 1,000 new followers on the platform. In the two hours the story was exclusively on Tumblr, the post saw around 2,000 notes. It now has more than 11,000 while the magazine’s other posts on the platform amassed votes around only 8, 10 or 29.
Regarding Instagram, their engagement editor Lainna Fader had custom content set to be shared on the platform far in advance, but she and her team were able to speed up the posting to help the buzz around the story circulate in light of the site outage.
“I think the experience has many positive implications for how we publish in the future (especially how we use social media as a platform in its own right),” Ms. Starke said.
In a note to the staff, New York editor Adam Moss applauded how the team quickly went into action to make the best of the situation. According to Ms. Starke, he said the day was “Incredibly frustrating yes, but an extraordinary display of what we are capable of as journalists and publishers, and everything in-between.”