Online traffic and metrics


Desktop, laptop use of New York Times’ website drops over two years

People using computers at home and work spent less time on in April and May of 2012 than they did during the same months in 2010, according to Nielsen figures released to Poynter. The average time-on-site (in minutes) for home and work computers in the U.S. for April and May for the last two years:

April 2010 April 2011 April 2012 Change 2011-2012 Change 2010-2012
15:50 13:20 14:02 5% -11%
May 2010 May 2011 May 2012 Change 2011-2012 Change 2010-2012
14:46 13:05 12:26 -5% -16%

We asked for the figures to see if the paywall had affected how much time users spend on the site — discouraging drive-by traffic and encouraging more loyal, paying customers to visit. Instead, the figures appear to show how mobile devices are chipping away at the amount of time that users spend on their desktop and laptop computers, the Times says. Read more


Knight News Challenge funds 6 projects focused on networks

The Knight News Challenge is giving more than $1.375 million to six projects that use networks in different ways to solve journalism problems.

Two of the winners announced Monday address issues on opposite ends of the journalism process:

  • The Tor Project will work on tools to help people in dangerous and politically repressive parts of the world publish and communicate safely with sources.
  • will enable news sites to track which stories and topics are gaining traction on their websites and their competitors’.

Monday’s announcement marks the completion of the first News Challenge contest since it shifted from an annual contest to three times a year.

Under the old system, nine to 10 months passed between the time that a project was submitted and Knight cut a check. In this cycle, that has been cut to 90 days, said John Bracken, director of the Knight Foundation’s journalism and media innovation grants.

Most of the awardees will have their checks by the end of the week, he said. “That feels right,” he said.

Bracken said the foundation is becoming more comfortable with funding projects that will change direction or refine their focus as they pursue their work. “I will be more worried if projects don’t come back to me in six months” to pivot, he said.

Two of the projects are being funded through the Knight Enterprise Fund, which funds for-profit ventures. “In line with standard venture-capital practices, the funding amounts are not being disclosed,” Knight said in a news release. The $1.375 million figure only accounts for the four projects for which funding levels were disclosed.

Bracken said the Tor Project’s proposal made so much sense to him, he almost felt bad that he hadn’t thought of it already. The Tor Project is behind the Tor Browser, which allows users to use the Web anonymously by separating their identity from their browsing.

That’s valuable in countries that block websites, track users and manipulate Web content. “We’ve been used heavily in China and the Arab Spring to get information out safely,” said Andrew Lewman, executive director of the Tor Project.

With Knight’s money, Tor will improve a tool, called Tails, that enables people to safely and anonymously use public computers. Many people around the world rely on Internet cafes to upload videos because they don’t have high-speed Web access at home, but their use of those computers can be tracked.

By sticking a USB drive into the computer, someone can temporarily load an operating system with word processing, audio and video editing software. When they’re done, they pull out the USB drive and walk away without a trace of what they’ve done.

Tor will use a portion of the Knight grant to provide live support to people in sensitive reporting situations. Someone in Baghdad, for instance, would be able to chat, email or call (at various levels of security) to get help on how to sidestep a county’s Internet controls to publish a story., another grantee, aims to solve a problem at the other end of the publishing process: figuring out what stories interest people so that news sites can decide what to cover and promote. It’s part of a growing niche of analytics tools that try to help editors make decisions. will track content on a news site and its competitors, displaying data about which stories have the greatest activity on Twitter and Facebook activity. It pays special attention to stories that are surging in popularity, tracking them more closely if it detects an uptick.

The dashboard shows a list of stories, their popularity on Twitter and Facebook and whether a story is on the home page. Users can track popularity over a variety of time periods.

“We want to bring social clarity to newsrooms,” said Mohamed Nanabhay, who along with Haroon Meer co-founded the project. “We think there’s a lot of information out there that audiences are providing, that newsrooms don’t see.”

Nanabhay described two ways that journalists could use the tool. The first is to stay on top of what your competitors are doing in real-time. If you see a story that’s taking off and “you think it has editorial merit … you can do it and try to ride the wave of traffic and provide a service to your audience.”

Or perhaps a news site already has published a story that’s relevant to a popular story on a competing site. would help editors see that, and they could then decide to push their story on social media and promote it on the home page.

The service also enables editors to drill down into their own content and other websites to see which stories broke out.

Nanabhay emphasized that should be used to inform editorial decisions rather than dictate them. When he was at Al Jazeera English (he recently left his job as head of its online operations), he worried about the temptation to chase page views by publishing stories on whatever was popular at the moment.

“That’s something we don’t want,” he said. “It’s one tool that informs editorial judgment. It’s not there to replace an editor or choose stories for him.”

The service is in private beta now; Nanabhay said hasn’t disclosed how much the service will cost.

The other four projects:

  • ($360,000) Enables map-based searches of live mobile video streams of breaking news around the world, using services such as Ustream and TweetCaster.
  • ($340,000) Helps disaster-striken communities quickly launch websites to organize volunteers, solicit donations and organize recovery.
  • Watchup (amount undisclosed) An iPad app that aggregates video news reports into a simple interface.
  • Behavio ($355,000) Uses data collected by phones to track people’s behavior, surroundings and the ways they use their phones. Knight is funding software development and the creation of a toolkit so journalists use these sensors to see trends in community data.

Knight is still accepting applications for the second round, focused on data. The focus of the third one has yet to be announced.

Disclosure: Julie Moos, director of Poynter Online, was a reader for the News Challenge; she is not taking part in any Poynter editorial decisions regarding the contest. Read more


The Atlantic disregards SEO as more traffic comes from social

Lauren Indvik reports that people at The Atlantic’s websites have stopped thinking about SEO so they can focus on getting stories to take off on social networks. “Sixteen months ago we received the same number of monthly referrals from search as social. Now 40% of traffic comes from social media,” Scott Havens, senior vice president of finance and digital operations at The Atlantic Media Company, tells her. Now that Google displays relevant results shared by users’ friends, social is becoming more important even among people who are searching. “Social media is becoming an engine that drives more than just Facebook and Twitter’s own referrals,” wrote Poynter’s Jeff Sonderman, declaring, “Say goodbye to SEO.”

Here’s more on what Havens told Indvik at last weekend’s Mashable Connect conference: Read more


Alexis Madrigal: Photo galleries an ‘invisible poison’ to news sites

“Readers may click through your slideshow, but they’ll hate you a liiitttle bit more than they did when they got to the site. … You can get a page view spike that’s actually a negative for your brand. And the more the slideshow spreads because of a clever headline or just because the topic is hot, the farther that brand damage spreads. Congratulations! You juiced the stats with an invisible poison!”

The Atlantic


News sites increasingly kept in the dark as Google hides incoming search terms


A sizable percentage of inbound search terms are hidden from publishers now that Google encrypts searches by default when users are logged in to and Firefox and Chrome use encrypted search in their toolbars.

When Google announced the change in October, the company predicted that the change would affect less than 10 percent of searchers. Adtrak writes that the figure is much higher:

Figures reiterated quite often on blogs, forums and in tweets suggest that some 20% of their keyword traffic is hidden behind secure search (when a person is signed into their Google account and searching the web).

I checked’s analytics: Keywords were hidden in 29 percent of searches in April. That’s up from 22.5 percent in November, shortly after the change was made. Now “(not provided)” makes up the largest category of search terms, dwarfing the second place term: Poynter. Overall, 6 percent of inbound traffic now comes from a black box.

Besides Google, Firefox and Chrome now default to secure search in their toolbars. When you combine Google’s share of the search market with Firefox and Chrome’s share of the browser market, about 26 percent of searches will be encrypted, not including those logged in to Google, according to Practical eCommerce.

Adtrak’s take: Read more


A year after redesign, Gawker has record-high number of unique visitors

Nick Denton | The Next Web
A year after Gawker Media sites were redesigned, January’s unique visitor count was a record, according to Nick Denton. Traffic dropped after the redesign, but recovered — though not soon enough for Denton to win his bet with Rex Sorgatz. The Next Web’s Drew Olanoff concludes: “Just when you think something is so radical and can’t work simply because it’s different, remember Gawker’s redesign. It actually worked.” || Related: Denton says Gawker redesign was aimed at casual readers, not fanatics (Ad Age) Read more

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Greg Linch: Page views don’t measure impact of accountability journalism

The Linchpen
Greg Linch, a Web producer at The Washington Post, argues on his personal blog for a new way to measure the impact of accountability journalism:

An investigative piece that might be nowhere near as popular in pageviews across a mass audience (yes, sometimes, they can be) is quantitatively measured the same way a celebrity death story is. … If we value impactful accountability journalism, why are we quantitatively equating it one-to-one to entertainingly impactful news?

A better approach, he writes, would combine page views with other measures of reader interest:

You could factor in all the usual metrics of pageviews, pages per visit and time on site along with others such as comments, social mentions of a story (and by what kind of people) and links. You could track the larger conversation around a story … You could also account for actions taken by governments, non-profits, community groups, registered voters, parents and others.

Read more

Latest numbers indicate New York Times traffic is flat since paywall

BuzzFeed | comScore
BuzzFeed reports that the U.K.’s Daily Mail has passed The New York Times as the largest online newspaper property in the world. A spokeswoman for the Times says this doesn’t mean that the Daily Mail is the largest single newspaper site, though, because its figure includes a recently added personal finance site. (I’ve reached out to comScore for more information.)

But the new figures show something else: The Times hasn’t lost reach since instituting its paywall on March 28, 2011. The Guardian reported in April 2011 that the Times had 61.96 million unique visitors worldwide in March, which was an increase of 41 percent from the previous month.

That means the Times had 44 million unique visitors worldwide in February; in December, that figure was 44.8 million, according to BuzzFeed. (Both outlets cited comScore as the source of their figures.)

Eileen Murphy, the Times’ vice president for corporate communications, confirmed these figures and said traffic is flat from December 2010 to December 2011. February’s 44 million uniques was the lowest in that time period; October’s 48.7 million was the highest (not including March’s spike, mostly driven by the Japanese tsunami). Those figures don’t include or other properties owned by the Times Co. Read more

13 Comments Dash offers news sites analytics by author, topic

A new Web analytics system launching Tuesday seeks to meet needs unique to content publishers rather than e-commerce or business websites. What sets Dash apart the most is its ability to tabulate pageviews by author, news topic or category, not just individual pages.

Judging from a pre-launch preview, Dash is a smart, efficient tool that almost any publisher would welcome. But for a couple reasons, it is probably going to appeal only to the larger news sites out there. Read more


Google punishes itself for spammy sponsored posts promoting Chrome

Search Engine Land
Google has downgraded the PageRank for its Chrome home page so that it’s now buried in search results for the phrase “Web browser” and similar terms. The company decided to punish itself after a site called SEO Book discovered a number of low-value blog posts that praised Chrome, including a video about the browser and links to download it. The links violated Google’s guidelines against paid links. Google said it intended to buy video ads, not links. Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan sizes up what happened: “The bigger issue in all this, as I wrote before, is that the campaign produced a lot of garbage content. That doesn’t mean that Google Chrome gets banned. Rather, it’s just embarrassing to Google, when it has [been] busy trying to prevent this type of content from ranking in its own search engine.” Read more


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