Online readership analysis – is bigger better?

Following my post the other week regarding online readership, sparked by some aggressive sales tactics by one of our competitors, I got talking to Andrew Smith of Escherman and we agreed to jointly carry out a more extensive piece of analysis looking at 50 different online news sites.

We selected ten sites each from the following areas – UK Nationals, Business, Marketing, Technology and Consumer. There was no particular selection process, just an attempt to have a reasonably representative sample and we both hasten to state that this is a relatively limited exercise which should therefore be taken with at least a pinch of salt. Particularly since indexed urls have been used as a proxy for content as this can be impacted significantly by site structure (as stated in slide 21), with some sites having sub domains and/or a more complex content directory structure.

However at the same time with the data that is readily available we think it provides some (arguably) valuable food for thought. So after several hours of research, number crunching and graph generation here are the results (I suggest you view in full screen mode unless you have excellent eyesight):

Site data is sourced from Google for the number of indexed urls via the “site:domain” command and from AdPlanner for the traffic data.

We are effectively looking at three areas:

Readership per article – average numbers of UK page views per Google indexed url per month. Where indexed url is a proxy for the number of likely visited pieces of content.
Engagement – time spent per page to indicate how long a reader is likely to be spending reading that content when they get there.
UK Relevance – what proportion of the sites readers as a whole come from the UK and would therefore be likely to be relevant if you were trying to reach a UK audience.
Andrew has provided his take on the results from a PR perspective here. For my part the highlights are:
Unsurprisingly readership per article is much higher for UK Nationals and Consumer than the sector specific publications. However within the performance of UK Nationals and Consumer a handful of sites stood out for having particularly high UK traffic per article being, in order, News of the World, Heat, The Sun, The Mail, Closer Online and Marie Claire.
Interestingly though if you remove these six high scoring sites from the samples then the sector specific sites still achieve, on average, between 30-60% of the readership per article of the remaining UK Nationals or Consumer titles.
Within the sector specific titles there were equally some significant differences in results with Techcrunch Europe, The Register and T3 being at the top end in views per url in Technology; Marketing Week and NMA in Marketing; and is4profit, Startups, Businesszone and Real Business above the average in the Business group.
The top six engagement scores were achieved, in order, by Reuters UK, Information Age, Financial Times, Business Zone, The Independent and The Register. A very different result to the readership per url figures.
This difference was further underlined with the Business and Technology sites achieving on average approximately twice the time spent as Consumer sites. Evidence for both more in depth content and greater engagement, which doesn’t seem surprising.
There are significant differences within each group with regards to proportion of UK traffic. Within UK Nationals the tabloids are generally between 60-75% UK based with the qualities between 30-55%; the FT having the lowest UK traffic proportion with 31%.
Within Business titles the vast majority of sites are UK focussed and because of this their audiences are predominantly UK based also. The exception being The Economist with only 7% of its audience being from the UK according to AdPlanner. Interestingly this seems to reflect the broad geographical interest of its content with even the US only accounting for just over a third of its traffic.
Its a similar picture within the Marketing titles with the vast majority of traffic to the sites selected being UK based. The marketing publication with the lowest UK proportion is Econsultancy with 57% from the UK. This in in part due to around 20% being from the US which seems consistent with their having a US presence.
Finally Technology and Consumer titles have quite varied levels of UK traffic with sites such as Techcrunch Europe and (clearly having the potential for interest from outside the UK) having lower proportions of UK traffic at around 20-40% compared to sites such as T3 and Heat which are between 75-100%.
Though limited the analysis provides evidence for savvy PR people who already know that it is important to ensure that you understand the publications they engage with and their potential to actually reach the readers and communities most relevant to them and their clients and not be blinded by big traffic numbers.
There are many other points that could be drawn out of the results and we would love to get feedback from people on anything they observe or suggestions as to how to refine the analysis and improve the validity of the results.
The other publications analysed not mentioned above were:
UK Nationals

A starter for 10

Well after much umming and aarhing I am finally writing my first blog post. I could list a batch of excuses as to why it has taken me until now to start a blog, but that seems like a glass is half empty approach to a first post. So instead I thought I’d start with what this blog is all about.

With a love of maths at school (I know what a geek!), a degree in economics and a chartered accountancy qualification it will come as no surprise that I love numbers. I have done for as long as I can remember. I love them not in a static one dimensional way, but because, like words, numbers can tell stories and paint pictures.

When I was trying to come up with a title for this blog I wanted something that had some personal element, related to numbers in some way and set the scene for the things I want to talk about. Oh and the domain had to be available too! I thought and thought without any luck. It was my incredible*** wife, Rebecca who came up with an inspired suggestion “Show me numbers”. The words come from one of my favourite TV shows, The West Wing. In the episode “Two Cathedrals” at the end of Season Two the President uses the phrase in a flashback when he is at school:

“If you want to convince me of something, show me numbers!”

The phrase highlights the (fictional – aah if only…) President’s desire for fact and measurement when making decisions rather than anecdote and opinion. This will be my aim with this blog. To try and provide analysis, quantification and evidence to base opinions on and I invite you to join the debate and provide your own evidence and show me, and the other one or two readers who may frequent this place, why apparent “fact” should be questioned.

***Just a selection of Rebecca’s many talents and qualities
– Natural leader and transformation change agent
– Fellow of the Association of Certfied Accountants.
– Creates amazing interior design schemes with a Distinction in her Interior Design degree.
– Fantastic sense of fun and humour engendering the same in our children.
– Blue sky innovative thinker with a stunning ability to spot opportunities.
– Calm in a crisis.
– Self taught in Revit CAD to professional standard.
– Inspires me to be a better man.
– Energetic and passionate in everything she does.
– Can quickly size up people and situations, identifying what’s most important
– Amazing at DIY and craftwork.
– Empowers the teams she leads.
– Makes the most amazing Christmas dinner.
– Capable of insightful financial analysis.
– Prince 2 Practitioner.
– Sings to an operatic standard and has a tone of voice you never tire of.
– Incredible eye for detail, can spot things no one else can see.
– Prodigious capacity to listen and be patient.
– Astute commercial judgement.
– The best friend anyone could ever have, would walk through fire for them.
– With an inner strength that can take your breath away.