The presidential election between President George W. Bush and Sen. John Kerry drew a record turnout Tuesday - and created huge traffic to the more than 850 online newspapers hosted by TownNew.com.

We host online newspapers in almost every state, including the key battleground states of Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Minnesota, Nevada and Hawaii. For people all around the world, these online newspapers were key sources of news during the hotly contested vote count that determined the electoral college victor.

We staffed our customer service desk Tuesday night, to make sure we could quickly respond to any possible problems. All went well Tuesday night - and Wednesday, when the real crunch occurred.

Our bandwidth consumption, which normally peaks at 80 megabytes per second, climbed to 120 mps on Wednesday, beginning at about 8 a.m. (If my memory serves correctly, 120 mps is close to a total for all U.S. Internet usage 10 years ago!)

My assumption is that the traffic peaked during the day on Wednesday because the election was disputed until Sen. Kerry conceded in the afternoon. Online newspapers were the best sources of election news.

Online newspapers usually are the No. 1 source for news during the day because so many people have access to the Web at work, and don't have access to TV or radio.

The Web also empowers the consumer to find out up-to-date information when the consumer wants, not when the TV or radio station gets around to sharing it.

Checking our overnight logs showed papers reporting up to a 50 percent increase in web traffic. It appears that the major search engines - especially Yahoo! - were "spidering" our sites heavily and pulling election data into their products. It's clear that the Google and Yahoos of the world have figured out that online newspapers are great sources of up-to-date information.

Of course, it wasn't just the national election that drew reader attention.

Online newspapers, in many cases, did a fabulous job reporting state, county, local and legislative races. Until the advent of the Internet, this constant up-to-the-minute reporting of elections was ceded to radio and television.

I think Tuesday's and Wednesday's performances helps prove that online newspapers are prime players in the breaking news world.

(Marc Wilson is general manager of TownNews.com. He's reachable at marcus@townnews.com.)