Speed Comparison of South African Media Websites

I’ve noticed that each time I’ve visited IOL recently my browser takes a noticeable performance knock. Trying to browse it by opening lots of tabs, as I do with most sites I visit, is out of the question, and it’s probably the worst-performing site I have visited recently.

I decided to run speed tests of the major South African news sites, and a few well-known international ones, to see how the performance shapes up.

I ran Yslow, which, along with Google’s PageSpeed alternative, is one of the more well-known speed tests. YSlow is a Firebug addon, both addons for Mozilla Firefox.

Here are the results. Higher scores are better – I only visited the front pages of each.

Site Grade Score
IOL E 55
News24 E 57
New Age E 60
Business Day D 61
Times Live D 62
Guardian (UK) D 64
iafrica D 66
New York Times (USA) D 68
City Press D 69
BBC (UK) C 71
Mail & Guardian C 73
Cricinfo C 74
Daily Maverick C 75
Facebook C 80
Twitter B 89

It’s no surprise that IOL comes in last, close behind the nearly-as-clunky News24, while at the other end of the scale, the Daily Maverick comes top, closely followed by the Mail & Guardian. The South African news websites are generally slower than the most popular international alternatives, ironic in a country with relatively slow and expensive bandwidth. Although Facebook and Twitter aren’t news sites, I’ve added them as two of the most popular sites for comparison. Twitter is unsurprisingly light, with it’s minimal interface, but Facebook comes out well, probably due to the hefty resources it devotes. It can by no means be called a light site, and the front page is filled with content, but it performs far better that any of the local sites.


  1. Thanks. We did Daily Maverick’s site and we do the CMS for M&G, although M&G’s internal team get the well-deserved credit for the speed on the front end. Nowadays I try to get my sites to over 85, but that last 10 percent is a lot of work, and it’s often for little real benefit. It’s something to strive towards, though.

    I’ve been using this checklist before launching sites. It’s brilliant. http://webdevchecklist.com/ They recommend a Yslow score of over 85. The challenge is on!

  2. “Hello IOL; 1999 called, they want their code back.”
    IOL, like most big media sites suffer from institutionally crap code.
    Take a look at its performance over the last year on the HTTP Archive: http://httparchive.org/viewsite.php?pageid=5776237
    When you start to analyse its poor performance (using tools such as WebPageTest: http://www.webpagetest.org/result/130204_1R_R1M/ you’ll see it comes down to a number of reasons:
    1. Poor server configuration
    2. Pathetic front-end code and architecture
    3. Poor control of content
    4. Poor or unconsolidated use of metrics / adverts.

    One of their biggest wins in terms of cost/benefit would be to simply enable client-side caching. Yes, caching. The cornerstone of web performance.

    Anyways, performance gains are easy when you have a dedicated Front-end Developer working on them, but institution-wide problems take much longer to fix. e.g. How can you instill (company-wide) a mindset that performance is important, that all those images must be compressed and sized before going live, determining whether the metrics the marketing department want to add are really going to be worth the extra 4 HTTP requests, etc.

    Still, 264 requests and 1.5mb is just bad. They’re using .NET (260kb HTML?!?) and a quick survey of the first 25 lines shows a LOT of developer mistakes.

    M&G and The Daily Maverick could be a lot better too.

    Come on people, Web Performance isn’t hard. 🙁

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