Wikipedia traffic for content linked on the Main Page

How much exposure comes with time on the main page of Wikipedia? The short answer: a featured article may get between 15 thousand and 100 thousand hits, depending on the mass appeal of the topic and the day of the week; a new article featured on Did you know? will bring anywhere from several hundred to several thousand hits, depending on the hook and time of day it’s up; a thumbnail from In the news may get tens of thousands of hits per day, on par with a Featured Picture (which is below the fold for most visitors).

Quirky, unexpected articles do much better than articles on better known topics. Examples from February:

  • Peru, which typically gets 4-7 thousand hits per day, only had 37 thousand on its day in the spotlight.
  • “Through the Looking Glass”, a Lost episode, got 100 thousand hits, compared to a normal day of about 1 thousand.
  • Golden plates, which usually gets 3-5 hundred hits, got 90 thousand.
  • Other Featured Articles at the high end of the hit spectrum: Knut the polar bear, Ronald Reagan
  • Articles at the low end: Barn Swallow, Constitution of Belarus, Irish phonology, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters

Consider some main page items from February 21:

  • The Featured Article, Bengali Language Movement: 14 thousand hits
  • A lunar eclipse thumbnail from In the news: 23 thousand hits
  • The article about that eclipse: 135 thousand hits (although possibly much of that traffic came from elsewhere; there’s no baseline to judge)
  • Other In the news articles, some blurbs up to 5 days old: ranging from 2.5 thousand to 45 thousand.
  • Did you know? articles: mostly in the 500-1000 hit range (for ca. a six hour period), while the image for the top article had twice the hits of the article itself.
  • On this day articles: thousands of hits each, some over 10 thousand
  • The Featured Picture, a dragonfly macro: 17 thousands hits

The most interesting thing about these numbers, to me, is how disproportionally heavy the aggregate traffic is for In the news than for other sectors. Much of the time the main articles for the newest news entries–represented by a single line each on the Main Page–have similar hit counts to the Featured Article–which has a whole box in better screen real estate. The anniversaries also have a strong showing, especially considering their placement on the bottom right of the screen.

The next time the Main Page gets redesigned, Wikipedians might want to do some more detailed research on which elements are most popular and factor the results into the design plans.