Millions and millions served

A few posts back I commented in passing that it would be interesting to know the breakdown of hit counts on sogospelnews.com, whose owners semi-regularly let drop that their site has several million hits a month (six million, I think, was the latest figure I remember seeing one of the Unthanks mention). This first thing to say is that that’s impressive for sure. As is EH&SSQ’s approaching the four million mark in monthly hits. Second thing to say is, thank you to the SSQ webmaster, who gave me a helpful reminder about a fairly important distinction I’ve been glossing over recently when commenting on website traffic. I had a series of arcane and mostly boring posts up here for a few minutes earlier this evening that tried to parse and analyze data and do all the kind of statistical stuff that I’m not good at (which should have been a red flag right away). But I finally scrapped it after realizing how mixed up and misleading and ultimately meaningless it all was. Apologies to anyone who caught a glimpse of it and tried to make heads or tails. The only thing in those scrapped posts worth saving was this: Hit counts can get really distorted if not put in the proper context. Fan sites and other sites whose hits counts are driven primarily by message boards or other intensely repeat-based features can easily have astronomically high hit counts but remarkably low unique-visit counts (about which the safest thing to say is that it’s hard to measure; metrics that track unique IP addresses to your site come closest but are still pretty flawed given that you can’t ever be sure if a visitor is using an internet service provider who supplies static or dynamic IPs). Devoted fans (like those with Integrity Quartet whom I commented on at the convention or the EHSSQ fans who absolutely swarm all over the EHSSQ’s message boards) or people who like to post to general message-board discussions will often return several, maybe dozens of times a day to see what the latest post is and make some kind of reply. Four million hits is a lot of repeat customers, but take a look at those message boards and you see how relentless and dogged many of these posters are in their regular returns. All of which leads me to two conclusions. Unlike a fan site, which can be said to have succeeded if it attracts and keeps a core of diehards who may hit the site tirelessly, news sites like sogospelnews (ought to) measure success by volume of readers reached. Which is why a gazillion hits on a news-based site are meaningless if the same four hecklers and board flamers are generating most of the hits. For fan sites like EHSSQ, volume is only important insofar as it vaguely quantifies the devotion of a fan base (better to have four diehards generating a million hits than a million ambivalent listeners who never log on at all). The real news about the four million mark is that EHSSQ has done something very special to jazz up its fans and get them hooked on this quartet (and its website).

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