This is Spinal Stats

This entry was posted on
Friday, April 4th, 2008
1:45 pm and is filed
under The Political Weblog Movement.

Spinal StatsI have a special treat for you today; a behind-the-scenes video tour into the world of Iain Dale, Paul Staines (aka ‘Guido Fawkes’) and the advertising network MessageSpace.

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…

Over the last two days, it has been proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Iain Dale and Paul Staines have been taking the number of visits tracking by Google Analytics and presenting this figure as the number of unique visitors.

This was proved via evidence that they themselves revealed on their own websites and here, in what might very well be the political blogging thread of the day, week, month and year.

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

Visits (or Sessions) are, according to Google themselves: A period of interaction between a visitor’s browser and a particular website, ending when the browser is closed or shut down, or when the user has been inactive on that site for a specified period of time.

Unique Visitors (or Absolute Unique Vistors) are, according to Google themselves: Unique Visitors represents the number of unduplicated (counted only once) visitors to your website over the course of a specified time period.

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’.

You can see Iain doing this here, on his own website, or you can check out this easy-to-follow version of that same data.

Paul Staines, during an ongoing attempt to turn this into a pissing contest, produced a screen capture that shows he’s been doing exactly the same thing.

In this post, Sim-O catches Paul Staines doing it again with Hitwise data.

Iain Dale and Paul Staines have since offered a series of alternative screen captures from other tracking providers in an unsuccessful attempt to draw people away from the thread where Kelly Nightingale, Managing Director of EOS Online Media Limited (trading as MessageSpace), shows that he too is a little confused about the difference between a ‘visit’ and a ‘visitor’.

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).

So come with me now as Iain Dale explains it to us during an EXCLUSIVE video lecture how the tracking of unique visitors really works. Please keep in mind that during this lecture Iain is disguised as Nigel Tufnel and using a metaphorical example:

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.

But no matter which way you slice it, these numbers just don’t add up, as I point out here to Jag:

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.

In the following clip, Iain Dale – again disguised as Nigel Tufnel – attempts during a lunch meeting to put 250,000 into 50,000 (or vice versa), using a mathematical and meataphysical metaphorical example:

We even managed to secure this footage suggesting that certain ‘bloggers’ who are STILL running around waving their ‘enormous’ cocks at people may be packing their lunchboxes with a few added extras:

Bless their little cotton socks,

Bless their massive fucking cocks;

Bless their 18 inch high rocks,

Bless this whole Pandora’s Box.


Neither Iain Dale nor Paul Staines have blogged about this since dumping themselves in it.

In fact, Paul has declared himself to be ‘bored’ with the whole matter and Iain has enough problems after handing out Nazi labels and Auschwitz gags, so I’m guessing that’s all they’ll have to say about it.

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?

Where’s the difficulty? What’s the hold up? Let’s get this show on the road!

About Tim Ireland

Tim is the sole author of Bloggerheads.
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