Another newspaper circulation scandal

Another newspaper circulation scandal

: The New York Times messes up a circulation report — in a report on Daily Kos (which I disdained here).

The paper quoted NZ Bear’s site saying that 500,000 individuals visited Kos daily. NZ Bear wrote to the paper asking for a correction, saying that the number is actually a count of “visits” and that individuals can account for multiple visits each day. The Times refused to make the correction. Go see the Times editor make a fool of himself in emails Bear publishes.

Bear is absolutely right and The Times is absolutely wrong. And I say that with the authority of an Internet executive who has dealt with these issues for 10 years now and as a founding member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation online committee that officially defined exactly these measurements with the Internet Advertising Bureau.

A “visit” is and always has been a bogus number because it counts only a session, not a unique user (and it gets even more complicated with a site is handled by multiple servers or when a user refuses cookies but I won’t bore you with that). See the IAB definitions here if you dare. Further, as Bear says, these numbers come from Sitemeter, which is not very sophisticated at dealing with spiders and such. So there is no doubt that the number is inflated if The Times is trying to express audience.

All The Times editor had to do is pick up the phone and call NY Times Digital to find this out.