Data agendas: PR by the numbers

Debate over Nielsen//NetRatings’ data release on podcasting vs. blogging and Hitwise’s data release on MySpace vs. Yahoo reflects the powerful weight numbers carry.

Debate over Nielsen/NetRatings’ data release on podcasting vs. blogging and Hitwise’s data release on MySpace vs. Yahoo reflects the powerful weight numbers carry.

In my story yesterday “Data hype? Internet data shops kingmakers, rainmakers” I question data shops', and bloggers’, “love” for “making headlining stories out of data”:

The Hitwise e-mail blasts are eagerly awaited by the blogosphere, as is data put forth by ComScore, OneStat…"Headlining” data stories are easy, popular, and “ring true.”

As blog stories based on data shop headlines, however, may "anoint" the companies headlined, data shops can become Internet “kingmakers.”

Also, by writing stories based on data shop headlines, the blogosphere can become part of data shop viral “rainmaking.”

In my recent “New York Times vs. Digg” stories I have been stressing the need to evaluate the research methodologies behind the colorful data charts and graphs published by data shops:

In both stories (“New York Times beats Digg, or Hitwise beats Alexa?” and “Digg 3.0, Who needs The New York Times?”) I include lengthy information on the data gathering methodology of the two data services. While the methodology put forth publicly by Hitwise appears to suggest that Hitwise data may be more reliable than Alexa data, once again, the debate is larger than Hitwise vs. Alexa.

The debate should be about the need to judge the reliability, validity and limitations of data presented by any data shop. The Hitwise data has its own share of qualifications, as data presented by any, and all, data services has qualifications.

Data agendas and public relations by the numbers are not unique to the corporate world. The not-for-profit community is well versed in the power of using small-scale “surveys” and “studies” to put forth headlining conclusions which further their missions.

In my “How many Internet users are generating content online?” I discuss how Pew/Internet uses a telephone survey of 1931 people to infer that “48 million Americans” are generating content online:

How many Internet users are generating content online? The Pew Internet & American Life Project pegs the figure at 48 million. The organization’s latest study, “Broadband Adoption 2006” concludes that "forty-eight million American adults have posted content to the Internet."

The assessment stems from telephone interviews of 1931 Internet users done by Princeton Survey Research Associates International between November 29 and December 31, 2005.”

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