News from afar – patience required

After the comments in the last post I decided to find some numbers behind the Mozambique experience of Stuff and NZHerald.

Happily the Stuff website eventually came back up. However the experience is less than stellar. My first test shows the home page took 22 seconds to load. Another attempt a few minutes later (done after the first NZHerald test below) showed over 1 minute 20 seconds, thanks to a laggard ad served from Fairfax:
Meanwhile the size of the first homepage was over a megabyte (That’s $10-$30 at going international mobile data roaming rates), while the second attempt was closer to 1.5mb.

The Herald first attempt was very slow – almost a minute, and the second 1.7  minutes. None of this is interactive browsing.

However the NZHerald page was a lot smaller than Stuff’s – at 605kb, and it was the same size the second time as well. It helped that their advertisements were static jpgs, versus Stuff that showed video or flash.

The total bandwidth used for loading both homepages twice was about 4 Mb – or $40-$120 in Mobile roaming charges.

I’m using the (very unreliable) wifi in the hotel – and so there is no imminent bankruptcy. Regardless, I have found that reading news websites from Mozambique is a patience exercise – and one that I have almost always failed.

As an aside – the repeat story on the NZHerald home page was amusing this NZ morning.  Seems the story was in two categories, and made it to the front page in each. That should not be able to happen.

Published by Lance Wiggs


2 replies on “News from afar – patience required”

  1. Hi Lance,

    Stuff definitely experienced issues with its international bandwith in the past week that led to frustration for a lot of international visitors.

    However, it would be wrong to assume that these issues were caused by ad serving or even, the decision to carry ads of specific formats in the first place.

    A well designed site will serve its main content pieces separately from the ad displays. Think of them as separate components, where the loading structure of the site necessitates the display of its host content first prior to any ads.

    This is certainly the case for sites like Stuff, where its host homepage content will load first prior to any ads. You’ll notice this if you try and load Stuff on your browser, that the ads will appear a split second slower than the site’s own content.

    Furthermore, ad serving usually comes from a third party server, not the host site. So, while page loading tools may calculate the size of the ad as part of the page’s total size, the serving of the ad itself does not draw from the same bandwith pool as the site.

    The same principle also holds true when these sites calculate loading time as they include the time taken to load the ads as well, and not just the site’s own content.

    Re the international bandwith issue experienced by Stuff last week, more information has been put up here:

    Lastly… just wanted to comment on this bit:

    “It helped that their advertisements were static jpgs, versus Stuff that showed video or flash.”

    That might only have been true at that point in time though.

    NZHerald does also carry video and flash ads on its homepage, so it’s not a case of one site carrying rich media ads on its homepage while the other doesn’t.

    Furthermore, NZHerald also boasts a “super rectangle” (440×400) ad placement on its homepage… wait till you see what that does :P


  2. thanks for the rely. Yes – flash versus jpg ads issue was just a matter of luck – NZHerald happened not to be serving that day and Stuff was. I guess it’s a function of what ads you are serving (e.g. one of Stuff’s was an internal one) which is a function of what ads you are selling and where you re sitting. I’m in Mozambique so I would expect to see a different set of ads than when in NZ.

    IT’s amusing that a toolbar sing RSS feeds bought the site down for us overseas. Surely there is a way to cache?


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