NRL vs AFL: Controversy and COVID in share of voice

Chris Pash
By Chris Pash | 5 July 2021

The NRL and AFL, while separated on the field, fight it out online for share of voice.

Discovery and native advertising platform Taboola used its insights tools, part of real time audience analytics platform Taboola Newsroom, to work out which code is getting more attention from readers on Australian news websites. 

Taboola looked at trending topics within the network of publisher partners in Australia to understand the type of interest readers found in NRL and AFL articles.

NRL articles generated more traffic (38 million) than AFL articles (21 million) in the 90 days between January to March.

These two codes recorded more pageviews than other sports in Australia, including golf (5 million), tennis (16 million) and cricket (17 million). 

And the NRL and AFL stories show interest is not just limited to game-day action.

1) Controversy gets clicks
NRL headlines that generated traffic were usually related to controversies or players’ personal lives.

Articles about former NRL player Jarryd Hayne’s fall from grace generated 2 million page views. This accounted for as much as 5% of traffic in a 90-day window of traffic on NRL-related articles between January to March.

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Examples of headlines:
● Jack de Belin, Callan Sinclair trial hears witness ‘dreamt’ of conversation with alleged sex assault victim
● Married at First Sight star Susie Bradley ENGAGED to ex-NRL bad boy Todd Carney after shock proposal
● Ex-NRL star Jarryd Hayne guilty of sexual assault, faces 14 years in jail

2) It’s not about game results
Across the Taboola Network, the topics that caused pageview spikes on AFL or NRL traffic were rarely related to game day results.

Looking at AFL-related traffic in April, the story with the highest page views was about AFL Geelong Cats star Gary Rohan selling his home. This story alone generated 2.5 million page views.

Collingwood player Jeremy Howe also made headlines for using his phone during a game. This topic generated almost 900,000 page views, more than three times the average amount of page views for AFL stories on the Taboola Network in Australia.

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3) Coronavirus disruptions
One breaking news event on March 29 showed that coronavirus still had the greatest impact on sports-related news.

The biggest one-day page view spike related to both NRL and AFL traffic since the season opening was recorded on this day. Brisbane's COVID lockdown affected Brisbane clubs' home games. The lockdown stranded the Brisbane Lions in Victoria while the Brisbane Broncos had to relocate to Sydney.

The news recorded 9.7 million page views for NRL-related traffic and 5.7 million page views for AFL-related traffic and significantly higher than their daily averages.

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