I’ve just gotten back from the 140 Characters Conference in LA where the message, loud and clear and 10 minutes per speaker at a time, was that it’s the quality of your followers that matters, not the quantity.
More reinforcement: Twitter’s new list function is already prompting “mass unfollowings” (thanks to Mary McKinnon/@bestwebstrategy for this link).
The first #140conf in New York in June was all about the unique communities that Twitter inspired. The dominant sponsor was Hootsuite, personified by a large owl walking around hugging people. Ann Curry duked it out with Rick Sanchez. Wyclef Jean showed up, late of course, but illustrating the importance of authencity. Attendees bonded over the duct-taped power outlets.
Five months later, it appears that Twitter has…matured. The speakers in LA weren’t giddy. The lead sponsor was Kodak, represented by CMO Jeffrey Hayzlett, a glossy brochure touting Kodak’s “convergence media tactics” and coupons for 15 percent off Kodak products. You can’t have either duct tape or power outlets in the Kodak Theatre (where the Academy Awards are held) so the crowd was often bigger in the lobby than in the auditorium.
I still had fun at #140conf LA – it is Twitter, after all – but the biz talk was pervasive: strategy, goals, objectives, processes, systems, results, the four Ps and the four Es, one of which was, of course, engagement.
Continue reading “140 characters of engagement”
Based on a Hitwise report, Online Media Daily reported that Twitter’s “torrid growth has cooled since April.” But the Hitwise number is deeply flawed – it doesn’t include traffic from “mobile and application-driven traffic.”
In other words, Hitwise’s report is based solely on traffic from Twitter’s web site. It doesn’t include traffic from smartphones and applications like TweetDeck. Hitwise’s report is just not that useful because it doesn’t include traffic from the devices and software that have made Twitter ubiquitous and easy to use, and which probably have contributed greatly to Twitter’s growth.
I say “probably” because we just don’t know one way or another. Everyone’s still trying to figure out how to measure mobile web use. It’s hard because there are multiple carriers and devices. But just because a number is hard to get doesn’t mean we should use a number whose only virtue is that it’s easy.
“…Mail.com Media Corporation…purchased Deadline Hollywood Daily for upward of ten million dollars….It is an ambitious plan for a site that attracts a few hundred thousand unique visitors per month – but then many in that group check the site ten times a day.” “Call Me,” by Tad Friend, The New Yorker, Oct. 12, 2009
This is a telling statement, despite mixing up the use of “monthly unique visitors” with “daily unique visitors.”
It doesn’t matter how many millions of “monthly unique visitors” a news site has. The value of a site is based on the ratio of visits per weekly or daily unique visitor.
It also matters who those unique visitors are. Deadline Hollywood Daily is a must-read, not just for the hangers-on in the “Industry” but for studio and agency executives at the highest levels.
Nikki Finke, the diva extraordinaire without whom DHD would be worth nearly nothing, posts 24/7, multiple times a day. So, the number of visits per daily unique visitor is the more appropriate metric. The number of monthly unique visitors is a “so what” number – useless.
As heard from Martin Nisenholtz at the OMMA Global conference last week, Twitter drives 10 percent of the New York Times’ traffic.
What does this mean? Is it 10 percent of page views? Unique visitors? Visits? Page views per visit? Visits per unique visitor?
Nisenholtz, the senior VP of the NYT’s digital operations, reportedly said that the NYT’s Twitter account has 1.8 million followers and growing.
OK. That’s a nice big number. But it doesn’t tell you anything about whether any of those followers – or anyone who got to the site through Twitter – really engaged with the site. How many followers go to the NYT site? How often?
I have no doubt Twitter is an important source of traffic – however it’s defined – for the NYT and other news sites. Let’s take the time to dig deeper so we really understand Twitter’s impact.
Because it’s easy to gather and it looks like circulation and readership, the number of monthly unique visitors continues to be a key indicator of online success for news orgs. This is really dangerous, especially if used to develop news business models.
The total number of monthly UVs just doesn’t give any information about how engaged audiences are. Let’s say you have 100 million monthly uniques, as paidContent.org reports the new Steve Brill Journalism Online venture is aiming for.
This number doesn’t tell you whether those 100 million of those visitors visited once or 10 times, or whether they went to one page or to 20.
You really need to know the level of engagement to sell online advertising. And, you really need to know how engaged people are if your business model depends on paid subscribers or content.
According to paidContent.org, Journalism Online is counting on about 10 percent of its news affiliates’ audiences to pay for content. Sounds like a realistic, reasonable number, right?
No, it’s faulty business logic. Simply assuming a small percent of any total audience will do anything is really dangerous, and something that savvy entrepreneurs know or learn in Marketing 101. “There are 100 million people living in this area of the U.S. If I build a better mousetrap that costs $1, and if only 1 percent of those 100 million buy my mousetrap, I’ll have a million dollars!”
First, not all 100 million care about trapping mice. Others won’t pay even $1 for it. Still others don’t live near a store where they would be sold, and wouldn’t order it online or by other ways.
Estimating audiences is an art and a science. Estimating the audiences for paid content involves more art than science, but I hope news orgs will start with understanding what online audiences want. It doesn’t do much good to set these types of numbers based on what the news orgs need to desperately meet their revenue goals.
It’s tempting to measure success by the total number of unique visitors. Total UVs, total registered users, total paid subscribers – they are all nice, round numbers bandied and crowed about in the newsroom and in the media, just like circulation.
Circulation (or readership) and the circulation penetration (the percent of the households reached) are the correct success metrics for mass media print, partly because they’re drivers behind advertising decisions.
Online is a niche, interactive medium. It’s far more important to measure the number of active users – however you define “active” – and what those active users did or didn’t do.
As Neil Mason in ClickZ writes, measuring only total users is “a case of be careful what you measure, because what you measure is what you get.
“Because the business was focused on measuring registrations, the drive was to generate as many registered users as possible, irrespective of
the quality of those registrations and whether they were likely to actually do anything valuable on the site.”
Totals do no harm. But they don’t tell you what you need to retain your audiences and attract new ones.
Even Facebook doesn't have demographics and user info. on all of its users, as this ReadWriteWeb story illustrates. In particular, look at the comments which point out all of the problems with using an incomplete set of data.
Facebook doesn't require users to provide age, geographic location and other basic demographic data when they sign up. Thus, the user data you get when you go through the self-serve advertising program doesn't include all of those people who didn't submit data. And you don't know how many, or how these missing people differ.
Also, Facebook doesn't require people to update their data, which causes other problems. One of the ReadWriteWeb story commenters noted that students who graduate from a high school or college may or may not be counted as students.
Facebook data should not be used for planning your social media strategies and services. You're better off guessing than using this data. Bad data may
Continue reading “Using stats from Facebook’s self-serve advertising program”
David Kaplan of PaidContent.org compared the number of unique visitors in April in political blog sites such as Huffington Post and The Drudge Report and found that “left-leaning” sites had 6.4 million; “right-leaning,” 4.8 million; and “neutral/non-partisan,” 1.3 million.
This is a fun comparison, but here are a few web-analytics-nerd thoughts for newsrooms who are competing for these audiences.
- The left didn’t necessarily “win.” To really gauge the relative strength or engagement of the audiences, you should look at ratios like number of visits per UV, number of page views per visit, and bounce rate.
- The left’s 6.4 million UVs is dominated by HuffPo’s 5.6 million. The right’s 4.8 million was more distributed among The Drudge Report, Free Republic, World Net Daily and others. I’d like to know how many UVs the sites shared – and how many went to only left sites, only right sites, and only neutral or nonpartisan sites.
- Also, how many went to both left and right, or to all three? How many who categorized themselves as left-leaning went to right sites? Right-leaning to left, and so on? (Note: A lot of this data will send you into analysis paralysis, but there could be some actionable info here.)
- In the minds of your audiences, is your site categorized as conservative/right, liberal/left or neutral/nonpartisan? Ideally, you should measure the differences in perception between news stories and editorials.
- Are your pages coded and/or is your site set up to track all “political” content, whether it’s on the home page or the officially named “Politics” section?