June 17, 2002

TRAFFIC WARS CONTINUE: TAPPED has another post on the ongoing feud with Andrew Sullivan and Mickey Kaus about traffic. The Boston Business Journal numbers of 500,000 and 800,000 as circulation and goal for TAP were, as many suspected, a typo, and have been corrected. (Link in the post). Kudos to the Boston Business Journal and reporter Donna Goodison for fixing this in what — though slow by blogger standards — is record time by big-media standards. There’s a lot of technical discussion that I won’t bother summarizing about how traffic is measured, too.

All this fuss over unique visitors leads me to suggest that there’s a business opportunity for third-party counter makers who use generally agreed upon methodologies (or at least clearly understood methodologies) and share their results. I’ve tried to be a leader in that with my open counter. You’ll note, though, that my two counters don’t agree! That’s because sitemeter tracks the whole site (including individual posts) while Extreme Tracker counts only the main page. Also, sitemeter tracks “pageviews” and “visits.” I don’t think the “visits” are the same as “unique visitors,” but I’m not actually sure what they are. [UPDATE: Stacy Tabb, who is a goddess, says that they’re unique visitors. She also says that measuring web traffic accurately is basically impossible, even at the server level — which is undoubtedly true, both because she says it (as a goddess, her words are performative utterances), and because of things like firewalls and caches.]

As I’ve said before, I care about this mostly because people keep asking. To me, a reader who’s interested enough to visit the page twice a day is as valuable as two readers who are interested enough to visit it once a day. I guess if I were trying to sell ads or something, I’d feel otherwise.

Extreme Tracker, which counts only the main page, reports 226,916 unique visitors so far this month, for whatever that’s worth.

UPDATE: Oh, and here’s a piece on the subject from The Weekly Standard. Same conclusion: rough-and-ready is about as far as it goes.

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