Via Garance Franke-Ruta's American Prospect blog post, I see that the Washington Monthly has a new article by Benjamin Wallace-Wells claiming to profile Daily Kos proprietor Markos Moulitsas Zuniga.
One passage, cited unquestioningly by Franke-Ruta, caught my eye:
The site, which has existed for only around three and a half years, now has 3.7 million readers each week. That's more than the top 10 opinion magazinesâ€”of both left and rightâ€”combined, more readers than any political publication has had, ever, in the history of the world.
That all sounds nice. But it's not true.
According to BlogAds, which has public statistics for all sites running BlogAds advertising (to inform potential advertisers), that 3.7 million/week figure (which BlogAds has this week as above 3.8 million) is not for readers, it's for page views.
Considering that each visitor is probably viewing many pages -- after all, you have to load new page views to read front-page stories, to read diaries, to read the comments to the stories and diaries, etc. -- and that many, if not most, people are returning to the site each day, the number of unique readers over a given week is but a fraction of that figure.
This is very basic web stats stuff. And something that should not have slipped by the Washington Monthly fact-checkers.
I note that Kos posted some other corrections to this Wallace-Wells piece, but not regarding the gross inflation of his site statistics.
It's great that Daily Kos is doing well -- we all benefit when alternatives to corporate-owned and -sponsored media succeed -- and Daily Kos is still by far the most active website in the political realm. But nobody is served by such false figures, or claims that Daily Kos has "more readers than any political publication has had, ever." It's just not supported by the facts.
And it makes the Washington Monthly, the American Prospect and the vaguely "progressive"/"liberal" blogosphere look bad.
Update 2005-12-23: Another source for web stats on Daily Kos is SiteMeter, which, as I write this, reports 5.5 million page views and 4.5 million "visits." In this context, a "visit" is a slippery term as a person going away and coming back 20 minutes later might be counted as a new visitor, depending on the settings of the counting software. (15-60 minutes is the typical setting.)
There's no doubt that it represents a ton of traffic.
So why does this differ so much from the BlogAds stats? One reason is that the BlogAds are on the content pages, while the SiteMeter stats measure all page loads, including composition screens -- which see much use, given the wildly active discussion threads there. The BlogAds figures are a more reliable indicator of actual pageviews of content being read, or at least viewed.
Does that translate into "probably" 500,000 actual readers each week, as Kos now claims? That's "probably" stretching it.
Update Two 2005-12-23 7:15pm EST: Washington Monthly writer Benjamin Wallace-Wells has posted corrections, which say, in part:
When I wrote that his site gets "3.7 million weekly readers," I should have used the technical term "unique visitors," which is the closest available approximation of a website's readership, but is certainly bigger than the actual number of weekly readers.