The price of beauty: a cyber saga

The beauty of Kenyon's campus turned briefly into a beast for the College's Web site in the fall, when the Internet service provider Yahoo! recycled a Forbes story naming the campus as one of the world's most beautiful—drawing so many viewers to the Kenyon site that the system ground to a halt and crashed.

The story had originally appeared on in March. But on September 12, when the article re-emerged on Yahoo!, it attracted more than 1.35 million visits to the College's Web site—four to five times more than average for a school-time Sunday and believed to be a single-day record.

Yahoo!'s estimated 275 million subscribers saw the story on the service's home page when they logged onto their e-mail accounts. From there, the post spread through other online vehicles.

The repackaging of the original article provides a case study in the tendency of modern media to sensationalize and amplify. The Forbes story, based on interviews with a panel of architects and designers, listed the Kenyon campus among the fourteen most beautiful in the world. Yahoo! added drama, casting its piece as a top-five ranking, and putting Kenyon at No. 1.

In the wake of the incident, the College has permanently increased its server capacity to handle similar viral outbreaks in the future. "If a billion people want to visit us, they can," said Ron Griggs, vice president of library and information services.

Despite the strain it placed on information systems, the story's second life proved to be "dream marketing for us," said News Director Mark Ellis. "There's nothing wrong with being beautiful."

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