So Dale & Staines are a sort of bloggers Milli Vanilli?
… and I think he might really be onto something.
Let’s begin with a quick look at the component parts of Milli Vanilli:
Leather jackets and bicycle shorts do make a powerful statement. They say; “I am as cool as The Fonz, and by the way, here is my cock.”
Running on the spot makes you look a bit silly, but doing it tandem with someone else apparently looks quite nifty to some people.
Technically acceptable, if mediocre and lacking in soul.
Ditto, but good enough for entry into the pop charts.
But when you combine all of the above, suddenly your singles are Top Ten and you’re getting a Grammy Award for Best New Artist.
Even individual components begin to look individually impressive. Teh Dancing, for example; doing energetic motions while you also appear to be singing in tune is enough to impress most people.
But take away one single component that turns out not to be real, and suddenly as far as the market is concerned, this is all you’re good for:
The important thing to remember is that Milli Vanilli could sing (a bit) and the people who sang for them could sing (a bit better) but neither charted higher than 76 outside of Europe after the backlash.
I guess the point I’m trying to make in a roundabout way is that Paul Staines is quite good at muckraking (he used to do it for a living, you know) and Iain Dale is quite good at village gossip (and championing a standard of blogging that he himself doesn’t subscribe to)… but that’s as far as it goes.
Heh. A few people have piped up mentioning a recent email from Google to all Google Analytics users, and I just got a copy myself in the early hours:
Dear Google Analytics users,
We are writing to let you know about a change in our service offerings. If you have logged into your account recently, you may have noticed that you can now choose to share your Google Analytics data. By providing data sharing options, we hope to provide you with transparency, control, and new services based on your preferences.
To learn more about data sharing settings, visit our FAQs: http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/answer.py?answer=87515
We’re also happy to announce industry benchmarking as the first new feature available to those who opt to share their data. Benchmarking lets you compare your metrics against industry verticals.
To enable this optional new feature, an administrator on your account will need to make the following selections on the Google Analytics data sharing settings page:
1. Log into your account. You’ll see the yellow data sharing settings box on the Analytics Settings page.
2. Click the “More data sharing options” link within the yellow box.
3. Select the second checkbox to specify that you want to share your data “Anonymously with Google products and the benchmarking service”. You can also choose to share your data “With Google products only” to take advantage of advanced Google advertising products and services as they become available.
The industry benchmarking feature is currently in beta. Once you have enabled benchmarking, it may take up to two weeks before the categorized, aggregated and anonymized benchmarking data shows up in your reports.
For more information on the benchmarking service, visit our FAQs: http://www.google.com/support/googleanalytics/bin/topic.py?topic=13909
In addition to the new benchmarking service, opting to share your data will also enable you to take advantage of new advanced Google products and services as they become available. We think these services will offer greater insight and sophistication to users who have opted to share their data. However, if you would prefer not to use these services, simply specify on the settings page that you don’t want to share your data.
This point was put to Jag Singh here, yesterday. Today, he sought to skip that point and address another… in private. His (eventual) public response to both points can be read here, and I look forward to doing his sums for him.
[Psst! Hendren’s story has changed. He initially claimed (during one of the four calls he made to my home phone number) that he called someone-who-is-not-Iain-Dale on the off chance that they would have my ex-directory number, and they did. Now he appears to be claiming that he’s cracking databases or something.]
[Psst! When you’re ready, lads. Take all morning and afternoon to think about it if you like, and maybe get your stories straight. In the meantime, I’m going to go out and have one of those ‘life’ things you keep talking about. See you soon.]
Now, some imagination is required here because Iain Dale is not officially part of the MessageSpace business, and not a lead guitarist in a heavy metal band. Similarly; “Paul Staines is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been” and he is also not a co-lead guitarist and lead singer in a heavy metal band.
So I humbly request that you suspend your disbelief merely to the extent of accepting that (a) the three are all connected in some mystical and monetary way, and (b) they are all vital components of an ailing heavy metal band on what may well be their final tour…
But according to Iain Dale, they are the same thing:
Iain Dale: “Can you not see what an idiot you are making of yourself? Extrem Tracking calls these figures Unique Visitors. So does StatCounter. Google Analytics uses the term Visitors but they are one and the same thing. Google counted 239,000 for me in March, Extreme counted 241,000. If I wanted to inflate my figures, which I do not (I even made public a drop in pageviews) I would have quoted the Extreme figure.”
No, they are NOT the same thing, and the key screen capture proving Iain wrong actually came from Iain.
Here, have a look…
Iain did not lift his figure from the Google Analytics figure for ‘visitors’, but from the Google Analytics figure for ‘visits’. He then presented this (much higher) number as the number of ‘unique visitors’.
Several attempts were made to explain this to Iain Dale especially, who kept returning and insisting that the data provided by Google Analytics to show a total of visits was named ‘visitors‘ (it’s not) and that this was “the same fucking thing” as a tally for unique visitors (it isn’t).
See? The numbers all go to eleventy. That’s the end of the matter. Nothing needs to be explained, because even if the headline stats have been grossly misrepresented, Iain and Paul also have plenty of other accounts that also go to eleventy.
However… the normally tight-lipped folks at MessageSpace have sought to end the confusion by insisting that the total number of unique visitors that they claim to reach via their network (either 700,000 or 800,000 unique ‘readers’/visitors a month, depending on which online promo you’re reading) was not based even in part on the (flawed) data of Dale and Staines, but instead arrived at by the comfortingly complicated and partly theoretical process described here, by Jag Singh, the chief information officer for MessageSpace.
When your Managing Director Kelly Nightingale turned up and showed that he too was confused about the difference between ‘visits’ and ‘visitors’ (ooh, I bet there were groans of anguish in the office when that happened) he said this:
“We [MessageSpace] sell advertising on many other higher traffic websites.”
Websites with higher traffic than Dale and Staines? I’m sorry, but a bit of mathematical difficulty needs to be addressed here.
Dale and Staines continue to insist that they are (and have been) pulling in roughly 250,000 and 350,000 unique visitors respectively each month.
If we take these figures (and yours) as gospel, we have this problem:
800,000 – (250,000 + 350,000) = 200,000
Now what you need to find in that 200,000 figure is more than one blogger with higher traffic than Iain Dale and Paul Staines.
As I said, a bit of mathematical difficulty.
We even have a problem if we take your figures as gospel and apply the far more reliable data from Google Analytics; roughly 50,000 unique visitors per month for Dale and 75,000 for Staines
To be as fair as possible, in this case, we are going to use your claimed figure of 700,000 unique visitors a month, not the claimed figure of 800,000 unique visitors a month:
700,000 – (50,000 + 75,000) = 575,000
To make up the numbers for an additional 575,000 unique visitors a month, you’re going to need quite a few “other higher traffic websites”. Possibly half a dozen or more. Would you care to list them, along with figures for the number of unique visitors each site gets in a month?
MessageSpace may take some time to answer that and other questions, but happily members of the vast leftist conspiracy have installed a secret camera inside MessageSpace HQ, and recorded the following discussion about the implications of two of their lead bloggers having only a fraction of the unique visitors they’ve been claiming, and the not-insignificant problem of these bloggers – and their fucking Managing Director – being uncertain about the difference between a ‘visit’ and a ‘visitor':
Note that, in the above case, Iain Dale, Paul Staines and key personnel of MessageSpace are all disguised as participants in the topsy-turvy world of heavy rock, and this time they are using a metaphysical metaphorical example.
Roll on weekend. Hello Monday. Moving On. Nothing to see here.
But because of this, even if the MessageSpace peeps do come up with a convincing case for their claim of 700,000 unique visitors a month (Or is it 800,000? What day is this?) doubts will remain about this claim.
Regardless of what the paperwork says about who owns or controls what, Iain Dale and Paul Staines are key ambassadors for the MessageSpace brand; they have been misrepresenting their readership figures to an extraordinary degree and, now that they’ve been caught red-handed, they refuse to admit it and instead dish out the usual spin, smears, and petty abuse.
MessageSpace could provide an excellent case to support their unique visitor claims in the most polite manner possible, but it would still be fatally undermined by the contradictory and often quite personal comments made by their ambassadors.
Normally such difficulty with one’s ambassadors is easily addressed; either the issue is resolved or the ambassadors are withdrawn. It really isn’t that complicated.
After all, Iain Dale is merely a ‘blogger’ who has signed up to MessageSpace and, if you recall; “Paul Staines is neither a shareholder, director or employee of MessageSpace and never has been.”
Surely it can’t be too difficult to convince them that perhaps they should at least admit to making a teeny mistake somewhere in their stat porn?
They’ve been taking the figure for the number of visits to their site and regularly presenting this figure as the number of unique visitors, thereby giving the impression that they have 5 to 6 times the number of visitors than they actually do.
The reality is that they have a much smaller audience than most of us thought, and that audience clicks ‘refresh’ a lot (probably more so now than in the past, as Dale and Staines have had comment moderation on full-time for months now, and people do get impatient waiting for their comment about Gordon Brown’s rocking horse to appear).
In Iain Dale’s case, he’s claiming 250,000 unique visitors a month, when in reality it’s closer to 50,000
In Paul Staines’ case, he’s claiming 350,000 unique visitors a month, when in reality it’s closer to 75,000
If you’re having difficulty with the terms/concept, imagine me popping by your site and either visiting 5 different pages or refreshing a single page 5 times. You and I would say that I am 1 person; Dale and Staines would say I am 5 different people.
Alternatively, imagine what the singles chart would suddenly look like if a couple of mediocre artists started claiming that the number of times a track was played was in fact the number of times it had been purchased/downloaded. Picture them getting those juicy MSM interviews and mentions that go with being a perceived success and actually selling a few tracks off the back of that as they declare themselves the kings/queens of pop… and you’ll begin to understand just how pathetic this whole sham is, and how this revelation makes the audience they have gained looked even more insigificant.
I can’t wait to see what they pull out of the hat to explain or try to divert attention away from it. They certainly can’t admit to fudging their figures, as this would totally undermine MessageSpace’s claim that; “Publishers on the MessageSpace network show 4 million adverts a month, to more than 700,000 unique readers.”
UPDATE – Westmonster – You say visit, I say visitor: Now, we’ve been in many meetings over the years with clever people in suits whose eyes glaze over at statistical definitions, but suffice to say: Dale is completely wrong, and Ireland is completely right.