The Nielsen TV ratings system people who bring you wildly inaccurate numbers to show who’s watching what on TV have a system for rating websites. Unfortunately, like the TV system, it relies on subscribers. They need people like you to download a surfbar that tracks your movements online so they can record where you go. The problem is:
- Surfbars were invented in 1996 by companies who paid you a few cents a minute to let them track your web movements.
- Scripts that trick them into thinking a human is surfing naturally 24 hours a day were invented, oh, a few months later.
- Alexa has been using a surfbar to determine web metrics for years, and even though it gained acceptance because it was the only one widely available, any webmaster who owns more than a few sites can tell you it’s way off. (BTW, Alexa is by Amazon – it’s that thing that enables them to recommend stuff they think you’ll like. Which provides millions of people with good laughs daily.)
- I once downloaded the Alexa surfbar, surfed Hathor heavily for three months, and boosted Hathor’s ratings into the coveted top 100k. What a joke.
- Predictions are already being made that Nielsen’s will go the same way because, as with TV, getting real data from a non-random sample of volunteers who are free to lie to you in several ways is about as informative as standing out in the open in orange and making a lot of noise in hopes of observing the natural behavior of nearby gorillas: you might see natural behavior, you might not. You’ll never know.
But is that even what they want? Granted, compiling TV ratings is a challenge for anybody, but web metrics? There’s a much better way to do it: instead of relying on unmotivated to download stuff which motivated webmasters can also download and cheat with: ask webmasters to add a tiny bit of code to their pages. That enables a system to track two different measurements and presume the truth to be somewhere in between. Still not perfect, but far better than anything Nielsen has ever come up with.
This is how Quantcast works. It surveys the audience for a hopefully random sample of data, then asks webmasters to insert a bit of code for tracking. I inserted the code for Hathor a few months ago because I wanted to see how our demographics really trend, since I’m sure 90% of the people I knew in film would be certain our audience is mostly female, mostly old angry bitter feminist dinosaurs. Now you can see for yourself, and track the numbers in the future.
As you can see, our audience does indeed toward the coveted 18-34 age group, but with a strong presence in the 35-49 age range, too.
And what do you suppose our gender breakdown is? That 18-34 year old group couldn’t include many males, could it? I mean, we know they don’t care, right?
Dead heat. Hmm. Well, don’t worry, I’m sure the target audience boys are only visiting us to, um, make sure we don’t hurt ourselves with all these electronics we’re using to produce a website and read it. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
Wait! Maybe the visiting young males aren’t white! That would explain it!
Damn. Well, they must all be gay! Gotta be! I mean, even though we have male posters who are married and unmarried ones who blither on about hot actresses in comments… um, it must be a trick! “Curses, you evil feminists – foiled again, but we’ll be back! With newer better rationalizations!”
I may be joking around in this post, but whenever a TV show or movie performs differently than expected, people rush to supply rationalizations for how their expectations really were correct, but something went wrong. Anyhow, now I’ve put my money where my mouth is: Hathor isn’t about a bunch of crazy feminists wanting something else no one cares about. It represents a small but growing audience of people including those advertisers and movie makers claim to want most in their audience, who are sick and tired of the same old same old.