Observing the growth in Internet web site traffic is a perfect reflection of what’s going on in the economy.

In 2008, the greatest growth in site-types was in job search, women’s-oriented content, coupons, and politics. Online gaming and gambling also gained a lot of eyes in 2008.

And, visitors to online classified ads grew by 27%, while traditional print channels – notably newspapers – took a direct hit. In classifieds, it’s about people trying to save and make money through the purchase and sale of used items, according to comScore‘s report, “The comScore 2008 Digital Year in Review.”

The big winner in this economic downturn has been the job search category, which grew 51% to 19 million visitors in December 2008. comScore found that CareerBuilder.com, the category leader, grew 78% to 9.1 million visitors. This dramatic growth is indirect proportion to the job losses experienced in the fourth quarter of 2008.

A hybrid women-and-health site to watch in 2009 will be the launch of Lluminari‘s BeWell.com. Visitors to Lluminari will already be familiar with the celebrity-doctor team of luminaries that includes Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC News, Dr. Susan Love (of breast health fame), and the ubiquitous Dr. Mehmet Oz. BeWell is being launched as an “expert-guided social network community.” The many health experts will help inform and guide the conversations, according to the company’s press release. This model isn’t new-new, but its celebrity-doctor visibility raises its profile. Bewell.com is well-positioned to serve women, the primary health decision makers in American households.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
One of the top-growing properties in 2008 was Waterfront Media’s Everyday Health, registering a 121% growth in audience size. This was primarily due to the company’s merger with Revolution Health. There will be more M&A activity among health social networks in 2009 due to the economic downturn and the fact that so many of these haven’t achieved the necessary scale or business model to survive the tough year ahead.

comScore soberly forecasts for 2009, “It is time for both publishers and advertisers to begin thinking seriously about how they intend to monetize this valuable content.” This is most certainly the case for health sites. 2009 will be a make/build-or-break year for those health sites in social networking.