One of my local-interest websites was mentioned in the Times Union twice recently. The graph below shows the effect of that on website traffic.
The two spikes, each about 150 visits, constitute about one third of total traffic to the site during that period. At first that might suggest that the mainstream media has a great deal of power. But it really cuts both ways.
On the one hand, the stories reached a lot of people. Each spike is about 150 visits. Since 30/day is normal, the stories generated about 120 each. If 120 people came to the site, that likely means thousands read the story. Maybe even tens of thousands. So the Times Union reaches a lot of people.
The other hand carries the day. A newspaper can only cover a topic like this a limited amount. There are too many localities to cover them all with frequency. There are counties, cities, towns, villages, school districts, and more. A well-done local website will be viewed far more over time and can provide far more content. The two TU stories were quite short and contained no substantive discussion of the relevant local issues.
The mainstream media has become the candy at the checkout counter. The web delivers the meat and potatoes. I just read a great blog post about the internet and the economics of the newspaper industry that is pretty relevant.
One final note ... the TU actually mentioned the website another time, a week after the first mention. This did not lead to another peak. Another sign of limits to mainstream media power.