Posted by Tim Ireland at April 10, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

I’ve been pondering on what Professor Paul said recently under comments

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:

Teh Look

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.”

Teh Dancing

Running on the spot makes you look a bit silly, but doing it tandem with someone else apparently looks quite nifty to some people.

Teh Singing

Technically acceptable, if mediocre and lacking in soul.

Teh Music

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.

Any status of super-stardom is either imagined or the product of invention… and, crucially, this is the part that could render what they are capable off irrelevant to most people.

Just a thought that occurred. Make of it what you will.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 10, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

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:

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:

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.


The Google Analytics Team

Given recent developments, I find this to be downright spooky.

Back soon with a pressie for Iain and, later, some sums for MessageSpace.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 9, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Things look increasingly problematic for MessageSpace….

They’ve just been forced to admit that they won’t be commissioning an independent audit anytime soon, so they’re reliant on trust placed in their brand and those connected to it.

(Stop laughing at the back there!)

But with two of their leading bloggers pulling in perhaps a fifth of the unique visitors they’ve been claiming each month (and reacting less-than-graciously to this revelation), the MessageSpace brand is damaged and their claim of 700,000 unique visitors a month across their network simply doesn’t add up.

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.

More in a bit… I have a surprise for Iain first.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 8, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Most regulars will recall the last time I wrote an article involving MessageSpace and all these right-wing bloggers came out of the woodwork to have a go at me while MessageSpace played nicey-nice and said it was nowt to do with them.

Well, check out this latest article involving MessageSpace if you haven’t done so already and then see if you can guess where ‘Dizzy’ (Phil Hendren) wants to take us after reading the comments he left on Paul Linford’s site last night.

Perhaps if I ask really nicely, MessageSpace might actually seek to address this matter in the DK thread or maybe even in the Guardian thread (which will close shortly) before somebody else loses their temper.

What do you think my chances are?

[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.]

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 7, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

I’m still waiting for Paul Staines, Iain Dale, Kelly Nightingale and Jag Singh over here, here and here.

Highlight of the weekend exchanges was this gracious and straightforward response from Paul Staines that staggers very close to the finish line…. but we’re not done yet.

[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.]

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 4, 2008

Category: 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!

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 3, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

It strikes me as odd that every time my foot is on Paul Staines’ neck, he has a shot at Tom Watson. I do hope Paul has double-checked those figures.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 3, 2008

Category: Inneresting

And now, some figures that have been fudged in the opposite direction.

(Boy that Lord Ashcroft does splash it around, doesn’t he?)

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 3, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

For the best laugh you’ve had in ages, watch Dale and Staines lay into me with their usual bluster and bullshit, not knowing that they’d both dumped themselves in it last night.

Both Paul Staines and Iain Dale have been playing us for a fools for months. Possibly years.

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.

Posted by Tim Ireland at April 3, 2008

Category: The Political Weblog Movement

Let me give the short version for those for those who don’t wish to dig through all of this:

Iain Dale has replied to my recent post about his outlandish traffic claims and has – in his post – inadvertently revealed exactly how he’s been diddling his figures (details are below).

Iain Dale is NOT getting in excess of 200,000 unique visitors a month as he has repeatedly claimed. He is, instead, getting somewhere around 50,000 unique visitors a month.

To show you that this isn’t a pissing competition but rather one person pointing out that Iain Dale and Paul Staines can’t piss anywhere near as high as they claim, I will happily admit that – currently – I am getting 23,971 unique visitors a month.

Now on with the fisk…

Iain Dale – March Statporn

March saw 239,368 unique visitors (2007 212,725 – up 12.5% year on year). Page impressions were 357,353 (2007 369,696 down 3%). Absolute uniques were 53,255 (2007 – 40,996 – up 30%).

Well, unlike Paul Staines, Iain Dale has made it past the headline without difficulty…. but he lets himself down badly in the first paragraph.

You can see from the screen capture that Iain provides that he is today – and probably always has been – using the figure for ‘visits’ as a figure for ‘unique visitors’:

One sentence in, and he’s flat on his face.

I can’t believe I have to explain this, but here goes…

If I visit your house I am a visitor. If I visit your house twice, it does NOT make me two visitors, but instead a single visitor who has made two visits.

(Mind you, given Iain’s ongoing interest in sock-puppetry, I can see why he might be confused by this relatively straightforward concept.)

I’ve posted the screenshot which these figures are derived from as a certain blogger has sought to pour doubt on them. Despite being a self-styled interweb “guru”, he clearly doesn’t understand the difference between unique visitors and absolute visitors.

Ah. Projection. One of Iain’s favourite tricks. This is why he’s doing it on the subject of expertise.

So let’s get back to someone who is a self-styled interweb ‘expert’ (who may in fact be a bit confused at times about how the tubes work) and see what he thinks about the whole absolute unique visitors thing:

An absolute unique is someone who visits the blog at least once a month (ie 53,255).

No, an ‘absolute unique visitor’ is someone who – to the best of Google’s knowledge – has visited your site only once (important bit coming up ) within a selected date range.

A ‘unique visitor’ in other words.

[Psst! ‘Absolute’ is a comforting addition from Google, and it;s totally warranted, as their method is a fine improvement on most older/other ways of detecting/calculating unique visitors. A bit of maths for you while I have you trapped between brackets: if I get 1000 AUVs on Monday, and I then get 1500 AUVs on Tuesday – 500 of which also visited the site on Monday – if I then select a date range for both days, the total number of AUVs given by Google Analytics is 2000… *not* 2500. Google rocks.]

I do understand this, which is why, when showing everyone what a load of old bollocks Staines’s stats are, I did not present the monthly figure shown in the passage below as an exact fraction, but as an estimate along with the word ‘maybe’:

Dec Stat Porn: “Using the stricter ‘absolute visitors’ metric gives 561,352 different individuals visiting this blog over the year.”

So that’s maybe 50,000 absolute unique visitors a month, then. A far cry from 350,000 a month isn’t it?

So, let’s get back to our ‘expert’…

A unique visitor is someone who visits the blog at least once a day – these are then amalgamated to get the monthly total of 239,368.

No, a unique visitor is a visitor visiting from a unique computer.

He or she may be visiting from different computers at times, which makes them appear to be more than one unique visitor, but it’s confusing enough as it is for Iain, so let’s move on…

The number of visits these visitors make are, surprisingly enough, added up to make a total of… visits.

Not a total of visitors.

The total of visitorrrrs that Google Analytics gives is… the total of ‘absolute unique visitors’ (within the date range that you specify).

Note that he provides no evidence to support his own figures, like a screenshot or anything.

There’s that projection again.

1. Iain only caught up with April Fool’s Day when it was 5 hours too late, so he may have missed the period before midday when I was having fun with my readers by initially presenting the stat-porn alone in this post in exactly the same format/style as Iain.

Look. See?

Iain is, in effect, criticising himself for not providing proof.


2. As Iain’s friend and political associate Dizzy is fond of pointing out, a screen capture alone is not proof*. Erm, unless of course someone produces a screen shot themselves that proves they’re an idiot. Like Iain just has, if you recall:

[*You may note in this report on Paul Staines’ stats that Staines has changed data on some graphs.]

Guido believes the MSM blogs are catching up with us in terms of traffic and he’s right. In terms of popularity, while traffic on blogs continues to grow, the upward line on the graph is certainly levelling off.

At the risk of repeating myself: Hahahahaha! “I’m so far ahead of mainstream media that they’re only starting to appear on my radar.” Bless.

One thing I do agree with Bloggerheads on is that it is absolute uniques which are the most important figure.

Then perhaps Iain can start using that figure instead of passing off the visits figure as a total of unique visitors, as he appears to have been doing for quite some time now.

Iain claims to have 239,368 unique visitors this month, when really he’s only had something like a fifth of that traffic; 53,255 unique visitors.

For any one man band blogger like Guido or me to have upwards of 50,000 people read us every month is, I believe, something to be proud of.

Hahahaha! That’s the spirit, Iain. If you’re going to come down from a quarter of a million to fifty thousand, try to do it with your head held high. This will at least stop the bullshit on your lips from dripping down your chin.

Others are now catching us up. Dizzy doesn’t do Statporn, but if he did, I reckon his figures will have doubled in the last year.

Bwahahahahahaha! I do love his historical revisionism. The way Iain likes to tell it, he’s a long-standing blogging pioneer and everyone’s behind him. But he’s a blip. And he owes what success he has enjoyed to bullshitting everyone about how successful he is; that’s what gets him all the MSM attention that feeds his little publicity machine.

The less said about what Dizzy does to get ahead in political blogging, the better.

So… here we are.

This is no one-off error; Iain Dale appears to have been presenting of the number of visits as the number of unique visitors for ages now. It’s quite likely that Paul Staines has been doing exactly the same thing.

If these figures form the foundation of the promo toss for MessageSpace (Dale and Staines are their two biggest bloggers… allegedly), then we have a bit of a problem on our hands…

Read the following knowing that Dale and Staines are getting maybe a fifth of the number of unique visitors per month that they’re claiming:

MessageSpace claims here that; “Publishers on the MessageSpace network show 4 million adverts a month, to more than 700,000 unique readers.”

I sincerely doubt that this claim is anywhere near the truth.

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