Censorship & The Interview: Site Traffic Explodes

When the Guardians of Peace recently hacked into Sony Pictures and released information about upcoming films and other sensitive material, it truly became the hack felt around the world.

It all began with the new Seth Rogen film The Interview, which is about two journalists who are tasked with interviewing (and then assassinating) North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un.

Months ahead the film’s planned release, the North Korean government began threatening “merciless attacks” on what they believed was an assault on the dignity of their leader. The so-called “Guardians of Peace” seemed to agree, as they demanded Sony pull The Interview, calling it “the movie of terrorism.” The group (whom the FBI believes is connected to North Korea) threatened terrorist acts against theaters that planned on showing the film.

Amid the controversy, the film’s release was delayed by over 2 months. Eventually – and partially from the prompting of President ObamaThe Interview was given limited release in select US theaters. Much to the chagrin of North Korean officials, it was also available for live streaming through a number of online sources.

Ironically, the attempts of the North Korean government to suppress The Interview backfired spectacularly, as so much press was generated from the hack that interest in the film skyrocketed. It’s basic psychology: If someone tells you that you can’t have something, obviously you’re going to want it even more. And the internet really, really wanted to see this “forbidden” film.

We used SimilarWeb to analyze the crazy popularity of this controversial comedy.

On December 24th, the film was released for live streaming online. The site – theinterview-movie.com – received more than 1.1M desktop visits!

the interview site traffic


When we looked into the traffic source distribution, we got a clear picture of the breakdown. Most of the traffic was social, because people just Could Not. Stop. Talking. About. This Movie!

traffic sources the interview


That’s not all: The Interview‘s Wikipedia page received roughly 21.5M visits in the past 28 days. Reviews on imdb.com also show a huge spike in traffic, as desktop visits to the site rose from 1,726 visits in November to a whopping 57,807 visits in the past 28 days.

What’s more, Sony says that the film has already earned a cool $15M in consumer spending from rentals and purchases across online platforms….in just the first 4 days since it was released online. Again, driving home the point that people are willing to pay a pretty penny for something that’s been dangled in front of them as off-limits.

Was The Interview even any good? So far the film has received mixed reviews, but it doesn’t even matter. Perhaps this lesson in basic psychology can also be viewed as a marketing tool: create hype around a product or service by telling consumers they can’t have it, then give it limited release.

So what started out as a hack to prevent the world from seeing Kim Jong-un in a less-than-noble light ended up being quite possibly one of the most brilliant unintentional publicity campaigns ever.


About the Author -

Pavel Tuchinsky is a marketing analyst and blog editor at SimilarWeb. He came from the world of International Economics, passionate fan of e-commerce and technology.

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