Online Visibility-its not the size of your traffic that counts

At RealWire we have recently become aware that a major wire service is making a big deal out of their website’s high traffic numbers. In fact they have been specifically targeting the market trying to argue that their service is hugely better where visibility is concerned.

However they don’t mention the following three crucial issues about the traffic to their site.

1. That volume of traffic is clearly going to be affected by quantity of content.

2. The time visitors actually spend reading their content.

3. The relevance of those visitors to the content.

At RealWire we are always keen to make sure that discussions are based around the facts so let’s look at each of these in turn to see how our readership, engagement and relevance are all in fact apparently superior to Big Wire Corp’s.

Quantity of content

Q: Which is the more “popular” of the following two sites?

Site A – 1 piece of content and 1,000 page views in a month
Site B –  1 million pieces of content and 1 million page views in a month

Well according to their literature Big Wire Corp would apparently see Site B as a more popular destination because it has 1,000 times more page views. Makes sense, bigger is better right? Wrong.

Site A’s one piece of content has been viewed 1,000 times, whereas each of Site B’s stories has only be viewed once on average. Now which site is more popular? Site A of course.

Now let’s apply this concept to Big Wire Corp’s website.

First of all let’s get an idea of volume of content. The Google “Site:[url]” command gives you the number of unique pages indexed by Google on a particular site – a good proxy for the amount of content.

In this case the answer is 406,000.

Next we need an idea of traffic to the site. Google AdPlanner provides estimates of monthly page views.

In this case the answer is 7.5 million

I we then divide page views by content, we get an estimate of the number of views per article per month. Answer 18.5.

RealWire’s equivalent data from the same sources is
Content – 5,500
Page views – 200,000* (less than 3% of Big Wire Corp’s figure)

This gives 36.4 page views per article per month.

Twice the Big Wire Corp figure suggesting RealWire has higher readership for each article.

*I happen to know that the page view figure is too high in RealWire’s case (we do have analytics of course) but it could equally also be so for Big Wire Corp and so until I can get a hold of actual numbers for them I am being consistent.


Q: Which of these two sites is engaging its readership the most?

Site A – average time spent on each page 2 minutes

Site B – average time spent on each page 5 seconds

Site A obviously. Each of the readers are spending 24 times longer reading an article on average than on Site B.

So let’s apply this to Big Wire Corp again.

Again Google AdPlanner can help. It tells us how many visits the site receives and how long each one lasts. From this we can get Time spent per Page as follows:

Time spent on page calculation

Big Wire Corp numbers

Time spent per visit = 3 minutes 50 seconds (230 seconds)
Total page views = 7.5 million
Total visits = 3.5 million

Time spent per page = 107.5 seconds or 1 minute 47.5 seconds

RealWire numbers

Time spent per visit = 8 minutes (480 seconds)
Total page views = 200,000
Total visits = 64,000

Time spent per page = 153.6 seconds or 2 minutes 33.6 seconds

43% more than Big Wire Corp suggesting readers of RealWire content are more engaged.


Q: Which of these two sites is most likely to have the most relevant readership to a UK relevant story?

Site A – 100% of visits from the UK

Site B – 1% of visits from the UK

A: Site A – Yes I know these are getting ridiculously easy now! :-)

Big Wire Corp’s market report focusses on US usage of their site when comparing themselves to others such as RealWire. However given that the vast majority of their content is from US companies it will come as no surprise that the vast majority of their traffic does as well. Google Ad Planner again helps us out.

US traffic – 76% of total

But the majority of RealWire’s clients and therefore content are from the UK. So what’s Big Wire Corp’s UK traffic like?

UK traffic – 3% of total.

And RealWire’s UK traffic? Well AdPlanner estimates around 75% but the real figure is nearer 45% or 15 times the Big Wire Corp figure.

Suggesting that RealWire’s traffic is around 15 times more likely to be relevant.


When evaluating traffic between sites it is imperative that you don’t get drawn in by the size of headline traffic numbers and that you consider:

a) normalising traffic for levels of content

b) how engaged the readers are

c) how relevant the readers are

Or you could find yourself reaching some very misleading conclusions. Just ask Big Wire Corp :-)

* Hattip to Andrew B Smith for highlighting the value of Google Adplanner for such analysis

RealWire “Releasing influence” – our new animation goes live

Following on from our Online Media animation from the start of this year we have just finished the second part of our “trilogy” – “Releasing Influence“. *Please note this animation is more self promotional in nature*.

The first part of the film follows on from “The Online Media” and describes how news releases have the potential to achieve influence in this world. The second describes how RealWire can help senders of news to do just that and also how our service helps them to understand the impact they have had.

The last of the three should be ready in a few weeks time and will deal with the importance of delivering relevance to recipients of news.

But for now here is the video. Would love to get people’s feedback.

If Freakonomics covered the pitching issue

The provision of pitches by the PR Industry to the receivers of news would appear to suffer from a significant level of inefficiency in the allocation of resources. This is due to PR suppliers charging too high a price for a given level of demand. Over supply to the most in demand journalists leads to frustration for them, and a lack of productivity and efficiency on the part of the PRs, causing reduced profitability.

To improve this situation the industry needs to invest, either internally or via external suppliers, in ways of reducing the price and/or correctly segmenting the news market such that each pitch can achieve the maximum return for the time invested.

The Price of a pitch

Price in this equation is the Price a receiver of PR pitches pays per story they subsequently produce. Before I expand on this a bit of background. Andrew Smith posted last Friday on the topic of pitching and the frustration journalists experience with activities such as phone calls asking “did you receive my email”, the latest being Charles Arthur at the Guardian.

As well as being a chartered accountant I am also an economics graduate (sad I know) so I thought I would try to provide a Freakonomics like perspective on this issue – hence the equation. (By the way if anyone is as sad as me and wants some more detailed graphs etc relating to this analysis then please just let me know :-) )

Getting your story covered is an issue of supply and demand

Supply – the stories pitched by PRs.

Demand – the journalists, bloggers, editors, publishers and broadcasters need for interesting stories for their readers/audience to help fill column inches, web pages, airtime.

The receivers of news choose to write, talk about or publish- the story and therefore it is they who are making the “purchase”.

The Law of Supply and Demand

In a market supply and demand are brought into equilibrium by the price mechanism.

Suppliers want to supply more product as the price rises. Consumers demand more product as the price falls.

At the equilibrium price (PE), the equilibrium quantity (QE) is produced and consumed ensuring an efficient allocation of resources.

The “Price” of a story is a function of the time invested and interest level

From a receiver of news perspective i.e. editor, journalist etc I would suggest that the Price that the receiver of news is prepared to pay to “purchase” a story is the time I have to spend per story that I talk about or publish i.e. the equation at the start:


Investment of time includes the time it takes to review emails I receive, telephone calls made to me – chasing, pitch or otherwise – and meetings, interviews etc.

News market segmentation

The news market though is not a homogenous one. Not all receivers of pitches have the same level of demand.

(It is also worth noting that demand for PR pitches probably shifts on an almost minute by minute basis depending on the availability of other material for articles, blog posts etc but I think I should leave the concept of elasticity of demand and substitutes for another day!)

In demand journalist (Charles Arthur) scenario

The most in demand journalists are highly likely to be generating articles on their own without needing to rely on PR pitches as much for their material. Consequently their demand for pitches is low and consequently the price they are prepared to pay is low – see graph above.

The PR community on the other hand wants the most in demand journalists to talk about their pitches the most and so these journalists probably get sent the most emails, receive the most calls and yet will use the least stories because their demand is low. The effect being that the PR suppliers are expecting this market segment of consumers to consumer a high quantity of product at a high price.

The result – excess supply of pitches in this market segment.

Market implications

In reality there are multiple demand curves as there are many different types of receivers of news.

The best performing suppliers will either be the ones that are able to lower their prices across the board for all receivers and/or ones who segment the market such that they charge the right price and supply the right quantity in each.

For example a publisher of a niche market website publication who has limited in house resources to produce content may see pitches as a good source of material and therefore be prepared to pay a higher price.

Implications for the PR Industry

So how should PRs (and RealWire) seek to improve the situation for Charles and all the other receivers of releases?

Based on my formula above the Price can be reduced by

– Decreasing the investment required of the receiver
– Increasing the proportion of interesting stories they receive

Decrease investment:

To achieve this you need to do things like:

– Make sure they are as relevant as you can make them
– Ensure that the title tells the story effectively, reducing time to establish interest
– That they are in a format that makes receiving easy e.g. no attachments.
– Give them options for how to receive the pitch e.g. RSS

If you have taken the time to do these things well it is more likely that the recipient will invest the time at least reading the subject header of your email. It is then also a question of tracking usage to see if the recipients of your pitches cover any of your stories and trusting that if you have done these things well you don’t need to call everytime.

Effect? Reduced investment on the part of the recipient through reduced emails, less time to establish interest in the story and reduced phone calls.

Increase proportion of interesting stories:

This is clearly a trickier area as a lot is about message, creativity and having compelling stories to tell. I won’t get into what makes for a newsworthy story here as others could cover that far better than I.

However there are other ways of increasing the interest in your story such as using multimedia content – images, audio, video – including links to relevant websites for further information, and including background documents such as technical specifications.


The provision of pitches by the PR Industry to the receivers of news would appear to suffer from a significant level of inefficiency in the allocation of resources. This is due to PR suppliers charging too high a price for a given level of demand. Over supply to the most in demand journalists leads to frustration for them, and a lack of productivity and efficiency on the part of the PRs, causing reduced profitability.

To improve this situation the industry needs to invest, either internally or via external suppliers, in ways of reducing the price and/or correctly segmenting the news market such that each pitch can achieve the maximum return for the time invested.

RealWire’ pickup score is 76%

I said in my earlier post about PRNewswire’s pickup and visibility research that I would document my assertion that webitpr‘s RealWire service achieves better results. Following PRN President Dave Armon’s comment on my previous post I thought it only fair that I get our pickup comparison data up for all to see.

*Health warning* I can understand potential scepticism as clearly I have a vested interest in these stats portraying us in a good light – as a number of people have pointed out about PRN’s research itself. They are also from our own Proveit tracking system and not from an independent source.

The headline statistic is that 76% of the releases that we distributed during the same period (April-June 2008) were picked up at least once in a piece of editorial or blog coverage compared to PRN’s 55%. The table below summarises this and how we compare against PRN’s other measures.

Pickup statistics

Our data is from the entire population of our releases sent in these 3 months. The monitoring period varied depending on the level of service opted for by the client but never exceeded the ten days used by PRN in their study. A pickup represents a piece of editorial or blog coverage that isn’t just a reproduction of the press release itself.

As mentioned in the debate following the PRN release these results represent the combined effort of our clients and us together. Some of the results will be 100% due to us, some 100% due to the client and some a combination of the two.

The other factor to bear in mind is that the PRN research took no account of quality and therefore we are unable to in our comparison. Clearly some coverage is more influential than others and where influence is concerned quality is actually very specific and can’t be measured with something as simple as Page Rank or readership as it is relative to the relevant industry and the audience the organisation concerned is trying to reach.

In conclusion our analysis implies we exceed or at least match PRN and the other big wires services by all of their measures. However our focus is still to get as near to 100% for the pickup statistic as possible by improving our reach and relevance to the recipients of our news and so help our clients to achieve influence online.

54% of press releases never get written about!

Not the kind of headline you might expect from the Chief Executive of a press release distribution service! But this is one of the implicit findings of PRNewswire’s research published on Tuesday and commented on by Todd Defren, comparing their news release distribution service with three of their competitors – Businesswire, Marketwire and Globenewswire (previously Prime Newswire).
It was tempting when this story first broke to respond with a post that shouted about how;

1. We achieve much better results than the ones stated in this survey – of course I would say that :) but I can and will prove it
2. The methodology and interpretation of the survey itself are questionable
3. That the arguments about visibility are flawed as they take no account of the relative amount of content (releases) each site has

I am going to address 1 and 3 in a follow up post in the next couple days and others have already pointed out the issues around 2 in the related tweets and comments on Todd’s blog post, so I won’t repeat them here.

But the real story IMHO and the reason why I have waited a few days before posting is I am amazed that no one seems to have focussed on the fact that the largest (?) press release distribution company in the world has just made a “landmark” announcement implicitly stating that 45% of the press releases it sends are never picked up by anyone and that across all four of these services the figure is over 50%. The words elephant and room come to mind.

So in numerical terms what does this mean?

The table below analyses:
1. The approximate number of releases that each of these companies sends per day (based on their main “.com” websites)
2. The % with no pickup (the inverse of the PRNewswire pickup figures)
3. The estimate of the number of releases per day that therefore aren’t picked up
*based on the approximate number of releases on each company’s “.com” website on 23rd September e.g.

I realise that to give a more accurate figure I should be basing my analysis on a lot more days than one but given the results I think the scale is still likely to be in the right ball park. The result is an estimate of 1,121 releases per day or an average of 54% of releases sent that aren’t picked up. Assuming the vast majority of releases are sent Monday-Friday then a multiple of around 250 seems reasonable to use to estimate the number per year which gives approximately 280,000. 280,000 press releases a year that are sent by these companies to recipients who aren’t interested in talking about them.

When did the PR and media industries become so accepting/jaded that this hasn’t become the real story? Tens of millions of dollars will be being spent on employing these companies to generate hundreds of millions of emails that are of insufficient relevance to the recipients that they don’t want to write about them. How is it that the big wire services are not embarrassed by these statistics?

In the meantime a question needs to be asked:

At what threshold of pickup, or lack of it, are you just spamming people?