Pitchfork’s coverage of the 59th annual Grammy Awards yielded the music site’s highest traffic day ever last Monday. With 1.5 million unique viewers, the music site saw a 275 percent increase over its 400,000 average daily unique views.
Thanks in part to weeks of planning and a dedicated weekend team, readership was up 383 percent from Pitchfork’s 2016 Grammy coverage, which netted only 290,000 unique views.
It’s a big reward for the small site, which was acquired by Condé Nast in October 2015. With a reputation for covering independent artists with more edge than sparkle, Pitchfork never had much reason to cover the recording industry's highest-profile award ceremony.
This year, however, the publication wrote real-time posts the day of the event, followed by several pieces of analysis spanning popular topics like artist tributes and race at the Grammys — coverage which brought the site up to 3.6 million page views on Monday alone.
The success, says executive editor Mark Richardson, can be attributed to a mix of factors, including the high number of resources devoted to coverage, as well as an expansion of genre by both the publication and the Grammys.
“More artists are performing at the show who are in our wheelhouse, like Chance the Rapper. We’ve covered him very closely since his first mixtape,” Richardson says of the triple Grammy winner. “He’s both a Chicago-based rapper who’s an independent musician, and a big star. There’s more people like that [at the Grammys] than there used to be.”
It’s also possible that there was just more interest in the Grammys this year. CBS reports that it delivered 14.3/25 in households, for a total of 26.07 million viewers tuned into the broadcast. This is a 5 percent increase YoY, and the largest audience since 2014.
While the increase in Pitchfork readers is clearly linked to the coverage, the audience came organically, free from marketing outside of the normal headline/link drill of social media posts.
Accounting for the effectiveness of planning and speed, Richardson says a total of eight people worked in shifts on the day of the event, and that preparation weeks in advance — including shell stories for various winner outcomes — allowed the team to write a lot of stories, fast.
"You can’t do that all the time, because you only have so many people and so much time," Richardson says of the group effort. "It’s a matter of coordination — you might have five people at one time, and one person is creating images, while one person is doing screencaps. It’s really a question of planning and thinking how much you want to throw behind it. Of course, next year we’ll do the same thing."
While Pitchfork has only covered the Grammys “in earnest” for half a decade, Richardson believes most of Pitchfork’s Grammy readers came for the publication’s curated take on the four hour award ceremony.
“It’s not about being a companion to the people who are watching it. It’s a way of getting information to people who are interested in what’s going on but probably aren’t in front of the TV themselves,” he says.