Pope's Death Spurs Online Religious Activity

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The April 2 death of Pope John Paul II has increased visitor traffic to Web sites of all religious denominations in yet another show of offline events affecting online behavior, according to Internet monitor Hitwise USA Inc.


Catholic sites recorded a 118 percent jump in market share of online visits for the week ending April 9 versus the randomly selected week ending Nov. 6, 2004. But the share of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sites also rose 40 percent, Judaism sites 22 percent and other Christian sites 5 percent.


The 84-year-old pontiff's death generated more online searches from people seeking additional information on him. For the week ending April 2, searches of the keyword "pope john paul" were up 3,161 percent, "pope" 2,801 percent and "pope john paul ii" 2,307 percent.


From all searches on the word "pope," 11 percent visited the official Vatican site at www.vatican.va and 10 percent each went to www.catholic.net and the Google News page at www.news.google.com.


Hitwise said the market share of U.S. visits to the Vatican site rose 543 percent April 2 versus the previous seven-day, March 25 to April 1 average.


The Latter-day Saints church, better known as the Mormons, held its 175th annual conference April 2-3, supported by an Internet broadcast. The market share of U.S. visits to the site at www.lds.org rose 351 percent April 2 versus the prior seven-day, March 25 to April 1 average.


A Hitwise analysis of the most frequented religion and spiritual Web sites for the week ending April 9 showed that the top 100 accounted for 67 percent of all visits to the category. An estimated 720 sites garnered the rest.


For that week, sites cited as Christian accounted for 62 of the top 100 visited. There were 15 Catholic-identified sites, five Mormon properties, three Muslim and two each of multi-faith. Southern Baptists, Jehovah's Witnesses, Judaism, Lutheran, Methodist and atheist each had one site in the top 100.


Older people with lower incomes tend to visit religion sites, Hitwise said. Online users older than 55 are 24 percent more likely to visit these sites. Those ages 18-24 are 28 percent less inclined.


People with an annual household income of less than $30,000 are 14 percent more likely to visit a religion site. Those with an annual household income over $150,000 are 22 percent less likely.


Men and women are evenly split in their propensity to visit religion sites.


In the United States, the Bible Belt generates a huge chunk of online visitors to religion sites. Visitors based in Utah and Idaho, respectively, were 208 percent and 64 percent more likely to have visited a religion site in the four weeks ending April 2. Mormon sites accounted for the highest percentage of visitors from Utah and Idaho.


Forty-four percent of visitors to the LDS Mission Network at www.mission.net were from those two states. Utah and Idaho visitors accounted for 38 percent of traffic to LDS Library at www.library.lds.org. The same states accounted for 36 percent of traffic at LDS LinkUp's www.ldslinkup.com and 33 percent at the LDS official home page at lds.org.


Mississippi users were 55 percent more likely to visit such sites, West Virginia 46 percent, South Carolina 38 percent and Oklahoma 37 percent. Alabama users were 36 percent likelier, North Carolina and Tennessee both 34 percent and Kentucky 33 percent.


Religion sites with the highest proportion of visitors from Bible Belt states largely were Christian or Baptist affiliations.


The Southern Baptist Convention's site at www.sbc.net got 38 percent of its visits from the Bible Belt, Lifeway at www.lifeway.com 36 percent and the site at www.sermonaudio.com 31 percent. The Bible Belt provided 29 percent of visitors at www.sermoncentral.com and 28 percent at Desiring God Ministries at www.desiringgod.org.


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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