I’ve never quite understood those who genuinely appear to believe that I have any reason to be jealous of John Scalzi. Yes, I am presently running for the SFWA position he is vacating, and sure, I do regularly lay the metaphorical crosshairs on him, but anyone who can fail to see the vast amusement that is regularly to be had with the author of l’affaire Rapey McRaperson falls very well short of being my ideal reader. But be that as it may, the one thing to which various observers inevitably draw attention is something I’d always assumed was at least partially true, which is the assumption that Scalzi’s blog readership at Whatever is significantly larger than mine at VP and AG. Longtime readers will recall that fans of PZ Myers also used to make a habit of pointing this out vis-a-vis Pharyngula, although we don’t seem to have heard much of that since the establishment of FreeThoughtBlogs and the inception of the low grade civil war presently raging between the anti-feminist New Atheists and the pro-feminist New New Atheists.
So it was informative to read this post, in which the SFWA president is impressed with the growing size of his blog readership.
“[H]ere are the stats for Whatever for 2012. WordPress’ stats software recorded 8.165 million views last year, which is up from 5.409 million in 2011, which is up roughly 50% over the previous year. That’s a pretty good jump for the year; as a contrast, the jump from 2010 to 2011 was 5.4 percent. I attribute the jump this year to a number of blockbuster posts, most notably “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.” The month with the largest number of views was May, with 1.1 million (not coincidentally the month of the “Straight White Male” post); The lowest number of views were in February, with 436,000…. To add to the confusion, Google Analytics (which I also have tracking Whatever) consistently reports lower numbers of views than WordPress; for example, in December, WordPress has Whatever getting 749,000 views; Google has it at 718,000.”
That looks genuinely impressive at first glance. 8.165 million views! But the last number made me do a double-take. And then it made me laugh. You see, Google Analytics also tracks Vox Popoli and Alpha Game. Those two blogs happened to combine for 719,700 views in December. 719,700, if I recall correctly, happens to be a little bit more than 718,000. Nor is it an anomaly, as that was actually down from 745,857 in November. This inspired me to look further into the matter of comparative blog traffic.
Interestingly enough, the lowest number of combined views all year was in June, with 570,971. In February, Vox Popoli alone had 494,534 views; combined views were 596,181. Not only were both numbers considerably higher than Whatever’s 436,000 WordPress views for the same month, but on the basis of the reported December ratio, Whatever’s more directly comparable estimated Google views were probably in the vicinity of 418,000. So, prior to the monster post in May that temporarily more than doubled Whatever’s traffic, this marginal “pit of manstink” appears to have had a readership that was 40 percent larger than the Great Hutch of the Rabbit People. Moreover, last year traffic grew at a rate of 30.3%, from 5,969,066 in 2011 to 7,777,620 in 2012.
Doesn’t quite fit the rabbity narrative, does it? In fairness to McRapey, I have to point out that he has never once attempted to play the traffic card himself, and on one or two occasions he has even attempted to explain to some of his more imaginative fans that the readership here, for all that it supposedly dwells in “the land of epistemic closure” is not quite as inconsiderable as some of them would like to pretend it is. The reason for the mistaken perception on everyone’s part is innocent enough, though, as it appears to be based on the fact that WordPress offers the most generous view calculations while Sitemeter’s are the most stingy, combined with the fact that I make my Sitemeter numbers public while Scalzi only reports his WordPress numbers on an annual basis. But Sitemeter is known to be at least a little unreliable; for example, there were several days earlier this year when I saw that it recorded no traffic at all.
So, corrected for the WordPress/Google ratio, here is how the annual traffic compares on the basis of Scalzi’s reported Whatever traffic and the Google numbers for VP (2009 through Feb 11) and VP+AG (Mar 11 through 2012):
The data indicates that Whatever needed that monster post just to keep pace with the continued growth of VP+AG. I now await with no little interest to hear how the “sour grapes” theorists will explain that I am jealous of the traffic and exposure of a blog whose readership numbers my blog appears to have first passed up more than a year ago. Now, it must be pointed out that Whatever did end up with 50k more total views in 2012, thanks to the aforementioned blockbuster post, but it should be readily apparent that VP+AG now have a bigger and more reliable readership base than Whatever.
By the end of 2013, I wouldn’t be terribly surprised to see the occasional month pushing somewhere between 800k and 900k Google pageviews. And if the Alpha Game traffic eventually surpasses Vox Popoli’s as I have always assumed it would given the higher level of interest in intersexual relations than in economics, SF/F, and my personal ideosyncracies, the two blogs may well surpass 1.1 million/month next year without requiring any well-linked monster posts.