Daily Archives: October 13, 2010

Some Whatever Stats Geekery For You

I’ve had a couple questions recently about stats, as in, how many people visit daily and where they come from and so on. It’s been a while since I did a public airing of statistics, so here’s what I know, at the moment.

First, a long-winded introduction and caveat: I no longer have a really reliable idea of how many people visit the site on a day to day basis, and that’s because of two things. One, the site is currently divided into two areas which report to different stats programs: My WordPress install (which as noted earlier this week is housed in WordPress.com’s VIP area) reports in one place, and the rest of Scalzi.com reports elsewhere.

Two, even when everything was in the same place, the stats programs I would use to track unique visitors, pages served and other data would report different numbers. For example, in 2008 — before I migrated Whatever off the site — the stats program that my ISP 1&1 uses regularly showed the site receiving between 25,000 and 40,000 unique visitors daily (factoring out search engine spiders and other automated visits), while the WordPress stats package I used would show 50% to 70% of those numbers for “visits.” Some of that was due to site content not in the WordPress software being ignored, but even accounting for that there was a pretty significant discrepancy between the two stats packages. I used the 1 & 1 stat package numbers as my “official” numbers, as it was better integrated with my site overall, so I made the possibly-not-entirely-defensible assumption its numbers were closer to the actual site visits and pages served.

These days the 1 & 1 stats package doesn’t count the people directly hitting on Whatever’s WordPress install, since the URL sends them to WordPress.com’s servers. But it counts everything else, including archive pages not in WordPress, and also sub-sites, like UnicornPegasusKitten.com. Those pages still get several thousand visits a day. On Whatever proper, I have WordPress’ stats package running and also Google Analytics, both of which report slightly different numbers, Google Analytics typically but not always being slightly lower.

So, what does it all mean? Given my knowledge of the site’s reportage pattern history and my own back-of-the-envelope number-crunching, I can say generally and with reasonable confidence that the site hasn’t lost readers at any point and by all indications continues to gain readers at it goes along. How many readers that is, is the interesting question. The low end — the one that works off the Google Analytics numbers for the WordPress install and assumes the 1&1 stats package overreports substantially, is about 15,000 unique visitors daily. The high end, which assumes the WordPress stats package underreports and the 1&1 stat package is on bead, is about 50,000 unique visits daily. The actual truth is undoubtedly in between.

What I’m comfortable saying to people is that the site gets up to 45,000 visitors daily, which to me implies that it generally gets below that but that the site shows spiky behavior, which in fact it does. Indeed, a number of days spike substantially above 45k in terms of visitorship (as seen through the WordPress stats suite), usually when I’m pressing some button about politics or publishing or what have you.

If I were trying to sell advertising on the site, I wouldn’t guarantee the 45k number; I’d pick a number well below what the Google Analytics reports, because that’s the stats package I would assume they would want reporting from, because the advertising would probably be placed only on WordPress pages anyway, and because I believe in an overabundance of caution when guaranteeing eyeballs. So: say, 10,000 visitors daily, which I know is far less than the site gets; that way I wouldn’t have angry advertisers.

(Not that I plan on selling advertising here anytime soon; I’m just rattling on.)

(Update, 6:10pm: in the comments, someone asked me if RSS readers are included in the stats numbers above. The answer: No. The WordPress stats package notes syndicated readers in its entry breakdowns but doesn’t add them to the general overall stats, and the Google Analytics doesn’t track them at all, as far as I can see. My 1 & 1 stats don’t include current RSS feed readers either. This is another complicating factor in pinning down the total readership of the site, to be sure.)

One day, when I have the time/money/an actual reason to do so, I will actually hire someone to consolidate all the content on Scalzi.com into one install from which it will be easy to get more accurate reports about visitors. For the moment, however, I just have to live with the fact that while I know lots of people come to visit, the actual number is a mystery.

That said, for the purposes of what follows, I’m using data from Google Analytics. It captures only a subset of the people who visit the site, but it captures their data in some detail, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that generally speaking, the larger audience for the site follows the trends in the data reported here.

So:

1. More than 90% of Whatever readership comes from four countries: The United States (which is more than 76% of the overall total readership), Canada, the UK and Australia. The largest non-English speaking country visitorship comes from Germany, from which a little over 1% of the site readers hail.

2. In the US, the state with the largest readership is California, with over 15% of the US total, followed by New York, Texas, Washington and Massachusetts. Ohio, where I live, is #6, with 4.6% of the US total visits. Top US city visiting Whatever: New York City (2.77% of the US total), followed by Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, and Portland. Top Ohio City: Columbus, at #13.

3. 70% of you have Windows machines, while 24.5% of you are Mac heads, and 4.16% of you are Linux nerds. Of the relatively small number of other types of machines which access the site, most of them are iPads and iPods.

4. Whatever draws a Firefox crowd, as 47% of you use that browser, followed by Internet Explorer at 21% (hi, mom and everyone at a corporate workplace), then Chrome, then Safari (those two almost tied at 14.4%) and then Opera. One person accessed Whatever with a Nook browser, which I think shows real commitment.

5. The very large majority of you are visiting with computers whose monitors are set at higher than 1024×768. This generally implies newer computers or at least newer monitors.

Add all of that up, and what sort of educated guesses can we make about the Whatever readership?

Well, I’m guessing that in general the Whatever readership is urban/suburban, educated, tech-savvy edging into tech-nerdy, probably mostly white, probably mostly moderate-to-liberal, probably generally 45 and under, and generally reasonably well off (or in the sort of social strata where being reasonably well off is not uncommon). I’d also guess, of course, that a large chunk of you read more than average, and read at least some science fiction and fantasy.

In short, overall, you’re not terribly unlike me. Bear in mind that I’m not saying you are all the things above (particularly regarding politics, as there is a vocal conservative/libertarian subset here), but on balance I’d guess you’re more of those things above than not. I’m not sure this should be terribly surprising to anyone.