Pat Kenny and KillBiller - How to prepare for media attention and website traffic

Recently, the tech correspondent for NewsTalk FM, Jessica Kelly, mentioned the KillBiller application as a tool for discovering your mobile phone usage patterns, and then using this information to switch between network providers and get the best deal possible. As an early-stage startup still developing a product, such publicity is a great boost to numbers, but can also cause it's own issues. You can listen to a replay of the appearance on the NewsTalk FM podcast of the Pat Kenny show below and see Jessica's write up of the KillBiller application here.

Even though our application was only mentioned by name twice, an interesting side effect of these mentions was the almost instantaneous traffic boost on our website, and in mobile application download numbers. Pat Kenny's Newstalk FM show has reportedly134,000 active listeners on any single day.

How much traffic do you get during a radio interview
How much traffic do you get during a radio interview

For all companies, radio is a massively powerful medium reaching a huge number of people instantaneously.As it happened on this particular day, the KillBiller servers were not prepared for the influx of visitors and our bill-processing servers had trouble keeping up with the ongoing requests. You can see the effect of the media appearance on the charts. Our pageviews per hour are shown on the first graph, and they multiplied by a factor of 20 for the hour of the show.

KillBillers android application showed a huge increase in users during Pat Kenny's mention on Newstalk FM
KillBillers android application showed a huge increase in users during Pat Kenny's mention on Newstalk FM

Prepare your website for a traffic boost

An unusual aspect to radio publicity is that the sudden veracity with which new users arrive – thousands of interested website hits within a number of minutes, the traffic dying off shortly afterwards. We've seen a stark difference between this type of mention and than in printed or online media, where user arrivals are much more spread throughout the day.

If you are involved in a startup or new company and looking to get into radio publicity, some tips to prepare for the "Stephen Fry Effect" are:

  • Caching Implement caching on your website / wordpress blog. We use the W3 Super Cache wordpress plugin – this keeps your website snappy and prevents an overload with many hits at once.
  • Scaling Ensure that your backend computers can scale rapidly to deal with sudden traffic increases. We're using Amazon Elastic Beanstalk instances to accomplish this, and we are moving to a multithreaded and queue system to handle many simultaneous users.
  • Preparation Try and get advance notice of the mention. If you know its coming, servers and traffic can be scaled in advance. You can make sure to convert as much of the traffic as possible into new users.

Either way, these are great problems for KillBiller to have: People are keen to use KillBiller when they hear what we offer. Phone offers are plentiful, there are a huge number of mobile plans and tariffs, and there is a sense of difficulty in finding the best mobile deal to suit your own mobile use. We're solving that problem. Killing one bill at a time.