Traffic spikes aren’t always good news

Here’s a good point about interpreting high traffic spikes.  It’s from Google’s Brett Crosby, as reported by Online Media Daily.

If you get a sudden bump in visits due to a breaking news event, don’t celebrate until you look at the time of day of the spikes, the timing of your competitor’s posts, and your bounce rates.

Your competitor might have posted before you did.  And if your competitor had better coverage, your bounce rate would probably reflect it.

Then, use attitudinal research to gauge whether the traffic spikes led to building audiences in the long run.  For example, you can survey people to see whether they think your site “always has the latest news about [a topic] before anyone else.”

Be sure to include a healthy sample of non-users and light users in your surveys.  It will be more time-consuming and expensive – and perhaps painful.  But listening only to your current users through online pop-up surveys won’t give you the insight you need to grow online audiences.

The essential categories for “news”

I really like the new simplified structure of The Washington Post’s mobile site, as reported by Online Media Daily.

Mobile’s size really forces publishers to really parse news into the most essential categories, the fewer the better.  For the Post, those categories are:  top stories; politics; business; metro; arts & living; sports; and a going out guide.

More importantly, these categories are simple words.  Unlike  newspaper section names, they are instantly understood.

Facebook removes geographic regions

By removing the ability to search fans by geographic region, Facebook just made it a little bit harder for news organizations to understand whether their Facebook pages are reaching their target audiences.

Facebook explained in June that it was removing the ability to join a regional network:  "If you've ever created a group or event and set it so that only members
of a certain regional network could join, that group or event will now
become open to everyone."

This panics data people.  "Everyone" is like "miscellaneous" or "all other."   It's like putting bunches of important documents in manila file folders, all unmarked.

Ben Parr of Mashable thinks that this is Facebook's "attempt to make [its] platform more open – part of its Twitterification."

This change reinforces the need for news orgs to clearly define the objectives, target audiences and business models for each

Continue reading “Facebook removes geographic regions”

First there was WAG, now there’s CPW…

….and don't forget about ROO.  I love using WAG ("wild-assed guess") instead of bad data, and now I have another metric to recommend:  CPW, or "cost per whatever." 

In his iMedia Connection blog, David Smith of Mediasmith lays claim to coining CPW, saying that "We all know (or should know) by now that CPC is dead.
Clickthrough rates, once the hallmark metric of Web success, have proven to be
irrelevant and it is time we moved on."

In other words, measure what really defines success or ROO -  "return on objective," not Kanga and Roo. 

WAG, CPW and ROO are all really useful, and, as Smith points out, these terms prompt "a little smile when someone first hears it.  And any analytics conversation can use that."

A vote for using ratios rather than numbers

"The value of advertising online ought to be measured more by
engagement than by sheer numbers, that is, more by metrics like time
spent or page views per user than by the sheer number of people coming
to the site, many of whom may not assign any value to the journalists
who generated the content.

"Indeed, as we hear more about “freemium” (mixed paid and free)
models, publishers and editors ought to be thinking about who their
most engaged readers are and what characteristics they share."

— From "Yes, News Sites Are Facing A Crisis, But Aggregators Aren't The Problem," by Bill Grueskin, Columbia University, in

Nielsen vs. comScore and the problem with panels

Here's an excellent analysis of the differences between Nielsen and comScore from Wall Street Journal "Numbers Guy" Carl Bialik, who explains numbers better than anyone.

Nielsen and comScore are fighting to be the primary provider of web traffic counts, the currency currently used to make decisions on many things from advertising to market valuations.

However, both companies use panels.  "One concern about online panels, as mentioned in the past, is that those who volunteer may not be representative of Internet users as a whole," Bialik reports.

Nielsen just increased the size of the panel and comScore is starting to incorporate self-reported traffic from publishers. 

Regardless, neither company – or any other third-party vendor – will ever be able to provide the detail needed for internal strategic planning and decision-making.   

Twitter: the future “pulse of the planet”

“If [Twitter] had a billion users, that will be the pulse of the planet.”

—  from TechCrunch, who received Twitter’s internal documents from a hacker

TechCrunch estimates that Twitter currently has 20 million U.S. users, “and nearly double that worldwide.”

So, Twitter’s got a ways to go, but the document projects it’ll reach that billion in five years, by 2013.

And oh yeah, it says it needs to make more revenue, too.  It wants to work up to “$1 per user per year.”

One formula for evaluating comments

Razorfish, a digital marketing agency, has developed a scoring system for evaluating how a company is discussed in Facebook, YouTube and other social media.

From Online Media Daily:  "The basic formula for deriving a brand's SIM
Score involves dividing "net sentiment" for a brand by the net
sentiment for its industry group. (Net sentiment = positive + neutral
conversations – negative conversations/total conversations.)

If tracked over time, this index can illustrate broad trends in your social media progress.  However, implementation could be difficult and time-intensive.  You have to ensure that "positive," "neutral" and "negative"  are clearly defined and applied consistently – no small task. Also, what's a "conversation?"

This formula weights comments from everyone equally.  This may not be appropriate in social media communities where there are individuals whose comments are more influential than others.

In any case – however you do it – do count and analyze your comments regularly and consistently to track your ability to maintain and grow a social network.