Damn Lies and Internet Statistics

Everyone wants to be number one in this game, who is the most popular, who gets the most eyeballs … who should get the big advertising bucks.

Yahoo! cries foul as MySpace pulls top ranking

The MySpace website deemed a virtual clubhouse where teenagers bare details of their lives has eclipsed internet oldster Yahoo! as the most popular website in the United States, a research firm said on Tuesday.

Yahoo! rejected the claim as “misleading” because it ranked the search engine’s domains such as search, news, and e-mail separately instead of adding them together.

MySpace.com got more online visitors than the Yahoo! or Yahoo! Mail websites last week, according to Hitwise, an online intelligence service based in New York City.

For a while it seemed MySpace had beaten Yahoo! to top billing according to Hitwise but Yahoo! have boo-hooed a press release saying “nuh-uh, our hits are bigger than YOUR hits, pffffft”. Rumours of Yahoo! giving MySpace a wedgie can not be confirmed at this time.

As a representative of a company with a traffic statistics product I feel I am just about qualified to say they are both probably wrong. Or at least neither are right.

First of all Hitwise does not have access to all the data to be able to say that one site is the most popular on the internet, or for Americans, or whatever the actual claim is. So no-one can actually say categorically who is top dog.

Secondly if we are to allow Yahoo! to group all the sites in their network as one then we are not talking about a single destination anymore. It is like saying that Rupert Murdochs media empire is one destination. Even worse for web tracking is each host or domain visited would more than likely be seen as individual visits rather than visits in aggregate. That would make someone going from Yahoo! to Yahoo! property appear as more than one individual once visits are collated. Adding 2 and 2 in this case really ought to come out as 3.

But none of this matters, there is no need for the truth here, only a better argument. This is marketing and spin, and it is all very effective.

Would the average Joe know who Bill Gates was if he wasn’t the richest man in the world? There are billionaires hardly anyone has heard of but most people could name Bill Gates. Who is the second richest? … I will leave you to Google it, but I couldn’t say off the top of my head. That Ikea guy maybe? Some Saudi royal? Don’t know. See? Being number one counts for something, being number two not so much.

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6 thoughts on “Damn Lies and Internet Statistics

  1. It’s a tricky one to call, I can’t see everyone ever being happy, some will want page views being the key metric, others visitors, then some will say inbound links, yada yada…

  2. You have a good point about Hitwise not having access to all data among other things.

    At the same time though, Myspace users log into a single url to manage their email, photos, and to contact others, among several other things like participate in different Myspace forums. That would be the equivalent of the main Yahoo homepage, Yahoo Mail, Yahoo Photos, and Yahoo Profiles combined.

    Even though Yahoo.com does a lot more then what the main MySpace.com page does, and has more subdivisions within the site, shouldn’t Hitwise and other statistic companies keep that in mind that similar subdomains should be compared together, like including the Mail area on both sides in the count? It seems many companies may be tracking every url on Myspace since most of the people go to the main Myspace.com url and check their emails and do other things from there, whereas in comparison companies may be looking at Yahoo.com and mail.Yahoo.com separately as many people go to Yahoo mail directly instead of going to the Yahoo homepage.

  3. yah…something ridiculous like 30 billion dollars.

    He lives in a 300,000 dollar house

  4. It’s all hype. Myspace and Yahoo users are already overmarketed to. Let’s use our brains…find the long tail.

    It is the online equivalent of radio stations stating that they are the most listened to station in the region (in the UK). What they really mean is that they were the number one radio station in the region listened to by ladies cvalled Vera, on a thursday afternoon that the kids were off and the temperature was above 80f.

    Now that these communities are SO huge, if they are perceived to be anything but the Number 1, their advertisers get p*ssed.

    Quality, not quantity.(Or position).

  5. Ha, cool. I did hear about him now you mention it, didn’t he donate to Bill and Melinda Gates foundation?

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