Many Web 2.0 Traffic Numbers Seem Like Baloney

Today, Rafat Ali posted in his PaidContent.org newsletter that video site Break.com received $21 million in funding. Okay, seems a bit high but maybe it’s true. He then went on to say that the site reports receiving 17 million unique visitors per month. 17 MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS. That caught my attention.

Today, Rafat Ali posted in his PaidContent.org newsletter that video site Break.com received $21 million in funding.  Okay, seems a bit high but maybe it's true.  He then went on to say that the site reports receiving 17 million unique visitors per month.  17        MILLION UNIQUE VISITORS.  That caught my attention.

Thanks to a great article at eBizMBA.com I found the US traffic stats for the top web 2.0 sites on the web.  The information was calculated by Compete, a recognized source for third-party web information:

  1. Myspace:          68,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  2. Wikipedia:        47,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  3. YouTube:          44,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  4. Facebook:         20,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  5. Photobucket:    24,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  6. digg:                 22,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  7. Craigslist:         21,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  8. Topix:               20,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  9. flickr:                18,000,000 monthly unique visitors
  10. TypePad:          6,000,000 monthly unique visitors

Based on these numbers, it seems unlikely to me that Break.com had anywhere near the 17 million unique visitors per month reported in the article.  I've never heard of the site, have you?  How is it that a site we've never heard of is almost the same size as Facebook and 1/3 the size of YouTube.  If it was that big, shouldn't it have raised much more than $21 million?  YouTube was purchased for $1.5 billion.

Looking at these numbers made me curious.  In total, these sites represent 290,000,000 unique visits.  Nielsen NetRatings estimates the digital universe in the US is 66,000,000 people.  This means:

  • Everyone in the US would have to visit about 4.5 of these sites every month.
  • Everyone in the US who uses the Internet would have to visit MySpace at least once per month.
  • 1/3 of the US digital population would have to visit Digg.

Some of this seems unlikely.  My Mother, Father, Sister, an In-laws use the Web and I know that none of them have ever visited MySpace or Facebook, or Digg.  I've asked many of my tech literate friends about Digg and none of them know about it.

So, what's my point?  The point is that I'd be highly skeptical about any numbers you see reported for sites on the Web.  I believe many of them are highly inflated and that the methodologies of the different third-party reporting companies are not accurate or correlated.  They might have some value as relative measures but even that may not be true.

If you're competing against these companies or starting a new venture, don't use these numbers as yardsticks of success.  They are most likely being manipulated in ways we don't know and you might wrongly conclude your business isn't doing well when it is indeed move right along.

Sol Nasisi
Sol Nasisi: Sol Nasisi is the co-founder and a past president of BestCashCow, an online resource for comprehensive bank rate information. In this capacity, he closely followed rate trends for all savings-related and loan products and the impact of rate fluctuations on the economy. He specifically focused on how rates impact consumers' ability to borrow and save. He also has authored a wee

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Comments

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2007

    He must have confused unique visitors with unique visits for Break.com. I've seen it happen all of the time.

    I do agree thougho that the Compete numbers seem a bit inflated. I've always wondered how these sites can all pull in so much traffic. Is everyone on the Web 24/7? Maybe they are.

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2007

    I agree. The web is healthy, but not that healthy. You need to be very skeptical when you see these types of numbers.

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2007

    Are we being bamboozled into using sites that really are not that well travelled? Aside from the sites themselves, who else would benefit from the inflated stats?

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2007

    @JCoop The sites benefit enormously in terms of raising capital and getting press. In the early days of the Web, sites trumpeted that they had millions of "hits." Remember that. It is a meangingless, inflated numbers. But everyone was impressed by it and sites used it to raise capital. VCs, investment bankers, etc. all benefit from making sites look bigger and more attractive.

    I'm not saying the Internet isn't real. You just need to be a bit cautious when every site out there reports that it has millions of users per month.

  • Anonymous

    July 13, 2007

    @MassMarketTech I don't know Break.com, but I don't think it gets 17 million unique visitors or 17 million unique visits.

  • johnny rocket

    December 31, 2007

    break definitely does have that traffic - you guys are idiots they buy the traffic not so hard to figure out then they get users who come back its ranked 330 on alexa definitely true - look at vois.com it has 1 million uniques and its 6840 on alexa.com - its a publicly traded company so its stats are public notice

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