It’s a numbers game

August 28, 2006 at 9:56 pm 1 comment

The New York Times published a lengthy article today alleging that Forbes.com has been misrepresenting its unique visitor numbers. Forbes.com boasts that “more people get their business news from Forbes.com than any other source in the world” but, according to the NYT, it cites outdated information from comScore Media Metrix to back up its claim. Forbes.com continues to quote comScore’s February data of 15 million unique visitors in a month, despite the fact that the latest July figures give the site a mere 7.3 million and place it slightly behind Dow Jones. The truth, of course, is hard to pin down, since rival monitoring firm Nielsen/Netratings only covers the US market and no one can agree on the best way to produce such statistics anyway.

Perhaps more interestingly, the article goes on to quote competitors’ assertions that a significant portion of Forbes.com visitors are drawn by its more provocative lifestyle pieces – stuff that doesn’t make it into the print edition. These visitors may well not be the top earners and business elite that Forbes.com claims to be its audience. Such articles include “The Hottest Billionare Heiresses” and “America’s Drunkest Cities.” Hmm, methinks they might have a point.

The New York Times also reports that Forbes.com’s controversial piece on career women topped the list of the site’s most popular postings and comments that it “seemed unlikely to dent Forbes.com’s standing in the Web rankings anytime soon.” In fact, it will likely send the site’s unique visitor stats through the roof. Perhaps the article wasn’t such a colossal error of judgement after all, but rather a calculated move in the battle for eyeballs and advertising dollars?

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Gavin Clarke  |  August 29, 2006 at 1:50 pm

    The New York Times and Forbes are both trying to figure out how to thrive in a world where information is commoditized online. Bitchy competition like this is inevitable, as they get in the gutter. The NYT was, itself, sucked into the Web 2.0 maelstrom after Michael Arrington claimed Digg has become the Internet’s news paper of record, having overtaken the NYT on page views. Reports of the NYT’s death were premature, though, as the data sample was highly biased.

    It’s a case of a case of lies, damn lies and statistics as cheerleaders for different camps try to prove they are winning.

    Reply

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