Commercial Internet data shops—comScore, Hitwise —and self-serve Web traffic tracking applications—Alexa, Google Trends—supply the blogosphere with continuous fodder for tabloid style headline stories.
YouTube “video mania” is announced by comScore in its August 15 press release “Online Video Officially Goes Mainstream as YouTube.com Breaks Into the comScore Media Metrix Top 50”.
MySpace “meteoric rise” defying “Internet laws of gravity” is declared by Hitwise in its July 11 press release, “MySpace Is The Number One Website In The U.S. According To Hitwise.”
Digg’s “fantastic social bookmarking” is lauded by Hitwise in its June 12 blog post, “Digg: Threat to Yahoo! News?”
In my earlier story today, “Internet traffic data reports: science or marketing hype?” I present the beguiling allure of Web traffic measurement statistics and the commercial influences behind data shop headlining press releases.
I discuss comScore’s latest press release:
comScore does not merely report its data. The company also puts forth subjective projections of the commercial market potential for online video and promotes online ad spending…
comScore makes no secret of the business development underpinnings of its Internet traffic data reports…
In line with its client-focused business development mission, comScore releases are not designed to simply report statistical data, they aim to sway public analysis and perception of the comScore generated data.
No need to wait for comScore’s or Hitwise’s takes on hot Web properties, however, to create a headlining story.
Lightweight self-serve Web traffic tracking tools Alexa and Google Trends are used by many in the blogosphere to develop headlining blog posts, which are sounding more and more like horse race calls.
In “Digg 3.0, Who needs The New York Times?” I discuss the shortcomings of the Alexa tool, used by Michael Arrington to put forth that “Digg is “looking more and more like the newspaper of the web, and is challenging even the New York Times on page views.”
In “Data attraction: hard science, or numbers game?” I signal the data disaster underlying Arrington’s headlining piece “Dazzle Us Again, Del.icio.us” and his subsequent follow-up “More Stats on Del.icio.us, This Time Positive.”
Arrington eventually acknowledges his data disaster:
At the end of this process, after reviewing the public data (deeply flawed, but neutral) and Yahoo internal data (presumably accurate, but selectively disclosed), I’ve come to the conclusion that I have no idea what’s up at del.icio.us.
The propensity for using scientific sounding, but unreliable and non-transparent, Internet traffic data to support headlining stories, risks turning bloggers' analysis into horse race calls.