Some days you’re the dog, some days the fire hydrant. This week it’s the latter.
In case you hadn’t noticed, our recent report on the size of local website traffic threw a curveball into the online media industry. One of our own clients accused us of “hand grenade tossing.” The comments on blogs and articles haven’t been very Valentines-ish. Click here or here to jump in and offer your own gut-kick, or pull some of the hyenas off us, whichever you feel is appropriate.
This type of reaction isn’t new. We often release research that takes people by surprise. Most people love research that supports their theories and hate research that might shed a bad light on it. We’ve issued similar “bad news” research for the newspaper, yellow pages and direct mail industries and received snarky comments every time.
We embrace research that gives the media industry actionable insights. This particular report fit the bill perfectly. So we put on the flak jacket and published it.
The report, “How Unique Is Unique: Gauging the (Actual) Size of Web Traffic,” detailed how many actual people were visiting local websites, as opposed to what the entire industry continues to use – unique visitor counts. We believe that’s misleading, and we further believe everybody agrees with us. The report also detailed how 30% or more of a typical local site’s traffic doesn’t live in the market, and that a large flock of visitors tend to be what we call fly-bys – people who might visit once every six or 12 months.
Unfortunately, a few of the news articles gave the report a very negative spin. I used to be a newspaper headline writer and understand how five or six words above the story can jade someone before he or she reads the first sentence. In one case, the headline read, “Local website traffic neither large nor loyal.” In addition to being negative, it was flat wrong.
One revelation in particular spurred us to write this report. It was a big opportunity that we wanted to uncover for smart people in the industry. The opportunity stems from the fact that local businesses increasingly feel that they are being duped by advertising. They are besieged by sales pitches regarding the Internet and have grown skeptical of the claims.
The first person who comes to them and says, “Let me tell you the truth about unique visitors and help demystify online advertising for you,” is the person who’s going to begin stealing business away from boastful competitors. As the last line of the Executive Summary says, “That form of education builds trust, and trust is one of the most important components of advertising sales.”