The Netly News
All Monica All The Time
By Joshua Quittner
(TIME, February 9) -- All week Monica ruled the waves. It was radio Monica every day and TV-talk-show Monica every night. Monica made every morning's paper and the cover of the weekly magazines. Like an endless D-day announcement, she rippled across the other famous zipper, in Times Square. But if you craved Monica maximus, there was only one place for you. On the Web it was all Monica all the time.
I don't care what the polls say about how everybody thinks the media overcovered Monica. As one of the guys who run TIME DAILY's Website, I know better: you wanted as much of her as we had to give. And then some. Any news site you could point a mouse at reported record traffic. Our hit rate doubled, and virtually every Web editor I spoke to reported a similar jump. In some cases the bounce was even higher. Back in September, after the Princess of Wales died, the New York Times on the Web hit a million page-views a day for the first time. Last week it set a new record: 2.5 million pages. "When all is said and done on this, journalism is going to have to look at itself in the mirror," says Web-Timesman Bernard Gwertzman. The Times' main competitor, the Washington Post, used its Website to break scoops online hours before the morning paper hit the newsstand. At what was once the other end of the news spectrum, the National Enquirer seized the moment to relaunch its moribund Website with what it promised was "late-breaking news" about Lewinsky and her high school teacher.
It wasn't just the news sites; traffic was socko all over the Internet. Half a dozen flagging Impeach Clinton sites perked up like sunflowers after a rain. So many bad jokes cropped up so quickly that Usenet groups competed for the title of Canonical Clinton-Lewinsky Joke List. The Bulgarian daily Sega crossed the Balkans--and partisan lines--to set up a Website where Clinton loyalists could leave supportive messages for the President. And the Official Monica Lewinsky Anagrams Page (I Yen Woman Licks; Slick May Win One) expanded its lexicon to include her lawyer, William Ginsburg (Bill Wins? I Gag Rum).
But the real money was on the vanity-plate sites. Everything was registered, from lindatripp.com to vernonjordan.com, with lots of permutations in between. "We own the one true spelling, which is the most valuable," boasts Raul Heredia, a professional name scalper whose company snagged monicalewinsky.com (as opposed to monicalowinsky.com and monicalewinski.com, which were also registered). Heredia says he has already been offered $15,000 for his site but it's not for sale. It's a public trust, he says; it's there for Monica. He's even left space for Lewinsky "to convey to the American people the TRUE story of the White House incident. We want to allow her to say what she wants to say," insists Heredia. Just what we need--more Monica.