Wednesday, February 14, 2007

News site statistics for the New Web

I participated in a very interesting discussion on a Lost Remote Google group for developers, sharing my thoughts on the changing nature of site analytics for content web sites. The crux of the argument was that recent stats noted how the Fox family of online properties exceeded the web traffic of Yahoo!, supposedly because the latter's application of heavy AJAX treatment to their site and reduced the raw page requests and reloading that's been traditionally experienced.

This is a sticky wicket, indeed. If I aggregated all the traffic my site gets from our page requests via the traditional World Wide Web, web service calls, desktop widgets, WAP pages, AJAX-based polling (for tag clouds, etc.), RSS feeds being pinged, Flash Video clips being clicked on and podcatcher clients looking at feeds for updates, remote embedded videos being played back on our servers and other services, I could easily pad my stats and add 1.5 million more "page views" per week. But for clarity, we plainly separate our traffic for clients into what's really generated via our web site through traditional means and then also for enhanced features for the full effect.

Conversely, I have a friend in the biz who cut over a major part of his site to Flash. He was shocked to learn that data transfer surged with his web host, but his page views dropped by 90%.

When doing presentations about how we do news online at, I stress to people that we in the content industry measure metrics differently. Sure, we may get several hundreds of thousands of unique visitors, but each visitor requests perhaps 8-9 pages per session, and typically exhibits several sessions per day. And services like AJAX and Flash and certain types of caching may impact stats, rendering them into a less-than-impressive format, but we ensure clients out stuff's being seen more and more in a greater variety of formats. This they like hearing.

Bottom line: site stats ain't what they used to be.


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