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Counting on confusion Why no one knows how manypeople are visiting their websites
What if everyone is wrong?
The mystery emerges          • Boston.com, BostonHer            ald.com complain of            lowballing
The mystery emerges          • Boston.com, BostonHer            ald.com complain of            lowballing          • Inter...
The mystery emerges          • Boston.com, BostonHer            ald.com complain of            lowballing          • Inter...
Panel-based metrics          • Nielsen and comScore            sample what sites            audience is visiting
Panel-based metrics          • Nielsen and comScore            sample what sites            audience is visiting          ...
Panel-based metrics          • Nielsen and comScore            sample what sites            audience is visiting          ...
Server-side metrics          • An actual count of            incoming traffic.            What could go wrong?
Server-side metrics          • An actual count of            incoming traffic.            What could go wrong?          • ...
Server-side metrics          • An actual count of            incoming traffic.            What could go wrong?          • ...
What is a unique visitor?             • Most agree it is               someone who visited               once during time ...
What is a unique visitor?             • Most agree it is               someone who visited               once during time ...
What is a unique visitor?             • Most agree it is               someone who visited               once during time ...
Dearth of free data          • Compete.com is best            known, samples a panel            of 2 million people
Dearth of free data          • Compete.com is best            known, samples a panel            of 2 million people       ...
Dearth of free data          • Compete.com is best            known, samples a panel            of 2 million people       ...
Was newspaper data better?             • No one knows how               many people actually               open up the paper
Was newspaper data better?             • No one knows how               many people actually               open up the pap...
Was newspaper data better?             • No one knows how               many people actually               open up the pap...
Credits• Much of this presentation is based on  “Confusion Online: Faulty Metrics and the  Future of Digital Journalism,” ...
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The trouble with numbers

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Why no one knows how many people are visiting their websites.

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Transcript of "The trouble with numbers"

  1. 1. Counting on confusion Why no one knows how manypeople are visiting their websites
  2. 2. What if everyone is wrong?
  3. 3. The mystery emerges • Boston.com, BostonHer ald.com complain of lowballing
  4. 4. The mystery emerges • Boston.com, BostonHer ald.com complain of lowballing • Internal counts are three times higher than Nielsen ratings
  5. 5. The mystery emerges • Boston.com, BostonHer ald.com complain of lowballing • Internal counts are three times higher than Nielsen ratings • Whose count is accurate? Agencies’ or content-providers’?
  6. 6. Panel-based metrics • Nielsen and comScore sample what sites audience is visiting
  7. 7. Panel-based metrics • Nielsen and comScore sample what sites audience is visiting • Afternoon traffic is undercounted, local sites are a challenge
  8. 8. Panel-based metrics • Nielsen and comScore sample what sites audience is visiting • Afternoon traffic is undercounted, local sites are a challenge • Nielsen once gave washingtonpost.com 10m and comScore 17m
  9. 9. Server-side metrics • An actual count of incoming traffic. What could go wrong?
  10. 10. Server-side metrics • An actual count of incoming traffic. What could go wrong? • Visitors are counted by device. Less accurate if they clear cookies.
  11. 11. Server-side metrics • An actual count of incoming traffic. What could go wrong? • Visitors are counted by device. Less accurate if they clear cookies. • No way of separating out robotic hits from search engines
  12. 12. What is a unique visitor? • Most agree it is someone who visited once during time span
  13. 13. What is a unique visitor? • Most agree it is someone who visited once during time span • Unique visitors per month is most common Internet traffic measure
  14. 14. What is a unique visitor? • Most agree it is someone who visited once during time span • Unique visitors per month is most common Internet traffic measure • Other measures: return visits, number of page views, time spent
  15. 15. Dearth of free data • Compete.com is best known, samples a panel of 2 million people
  16. 16. Dearth of free data • Compete.com is best known, samples a panel of 2 million people • Quantcast gets good reviews from some, but code must be installed
  17. 17. Dearth of free data • Compete.com is best known, samples a panel of 2 million people • Quantcast gets good reviews from some, but code must be installed • Alexa provides a lot of data, but results seem very odd
  18. 18. Was newspaper data better? • No one knows how many people actually open up the paper
  19. 19. Was newspaper data better? • No one knows how many people actually open up the paper • Multipliers of “readers” versus “subscribers” is highly suspect
  20. 20. Was newspaper data better? • No one knows how many people actually open up the paper • Multipliers of “readers” versus “subscribers” is highly suspect • Chicanery to make numbers look higher is not unusual
  21. 21. Credits• Much of this presentation is based on “Confusion Online: Faulty Metrics and the Future of Digital Journalism,” by Lucas Graves, John Kelly and Marissa Cluck, Tow Center for Digital Journalism, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, September 2010.
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