Today at about 2 p.m. the New York Times broke the Spitzer story on its web site — and promptly started wobbling under the weight of the huge response. The webiste went in and out this afternoon. We asked the NYT if the website trouble was the result of the Spitzer scoop, and spokesperson Diane McNulty confirmed that it was, saying that traffic had spiked shortly after the Spitzer article was posted. McNulty said that the hourly Web site traffic between 2-4 pm was a whopping 60% higher that during the same time frame last Monday; meanwhile, NYT mobile almost doubled its traffic for the same time period. Wow — those are pretty big numbers, especially given that eveything is spiking lately due to the election (recall that last Monday was the day before the Ohio-Texas primaries, and there was tons of interest across the board). Even for the NYT, which has seen its traffic surge since dropping the TimesSelect paywall in September 2007, this was obviously a big deal. The site seemed to stabilize somewhere in the 4 p.m. hour. Said McNulty: "The IT folks had to juggle servers and it seems to be fine now."
Update: These stories are huge traffic drivers across the board, and here's another example: The Drudge Report linked to the NY Observer story on its top at around 3 p.m. this afternoon, and the traffic spike temporarily disabled the link and, presumably, has been responsible for site slowness since then (since the piece is still linked in the headlines on Drudge).
Update II: McNulty kindly answered our follow-up question asking if this had ever happened before. Her response: Yes, twice: Once on September 11, 2001 ("we were overwhelmed by the amount of traffic and some people had trouble getting through") and then again on Nov. 12, 2001 when American Airlines Flight 587 crashed in Queens (McNulty said they had "load issues" but it wasn't as bad as 9/11). Said McNulty: "It's hard to tell how either one compares to today's event given that we have almost 10 times the bandwidth now."
Spitzer? But I Don't Even Know 'Er! [ETP]