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(September 18, 2001) When Hot Jobs traffic outdistanced Monster in the July Media Metrix rankings, our faith in human kind's innate ability to beat accounting systems was once again restored. Hot Jobs published traffic was 2,138,000 in May 01, 3,967,000 in June 01, and 6,304,000. Back in Sep 00, HotJobs clocked in at 1,502,000. After growing at a steady 5-10% per month pace for several years, all of a sudden they grew at 50-100% per month over the last 3 months. It reminded us of the fundamental problem with the web: all measurement systems can be beaten.
Way back in the good old days (we were the 50th website online!), pressure began to mount to try to understand the size and impact of online traffic. Since web servers were good at counting "hits", the earliest accepted measure of traffic was the "number of hits" a website received. (A hit is a unique file shipped from the web server to a user's computer. If this is the first time you are viewing this page, it will generate a count of 17 hits on our web server. If it is your second viewing, it should generate 0 or possibly 1 hits. If you look at the new page tomorrow, it should generate one hit.)
It didn't take long before someone figured out that they could write a web page that caused a million hits to be counted. As web pages increased in complexity, the task of making the web counter spin became easier and easier. It was clear, early on, that "hits" measured nothing.
Basically, the reason that the HotJobs numbers exploded in the way that they did is that MediaMetrix has a funny way of accounting for those irritating little windows that pop up behind the screen. As long as people can find a way to manipulate the stats, they will.
That's not to say that HotJobs intentionally tried to create an impression that wasn't there. These days, visiting HotJobs will get you a window advertising BonziBuddy, served to you by advertising.com. It's a revenue source and anyone who has tried to stay afloat this year is considering all sorts of new businesses. It's most likely that HotJobs had a benign intent and that MediaMetrix simply showed the flaws in the system.
When you stop to think about it, to whom does it matter that a website is first or 10,000,000th? To the extent that size means results, we suppose that it matters. But, we're reluctant to believe that people buy products from either Hot Jobs or Monster based on size. They buy based on results (in the case of Monster, because it's a safe choice.) Our experience with advertising purchasers indicates that people buy for a series of reasons other than the traffic, per se. Branding, the potential for results, exposure to a specific audience and lead generation are the most common reasons for advertising. Whether one forum makes more sense than another is a function of price point, not of the service but of the product being sold. The size of an operation means nothing in this equation (except to highly risk averse decision makers who are not actually looking for results.)
The measurement systems for television, print and radio are equally subject to manipulation and bias. Companies appear to get really concerned about their relative rankings when they are facing downturns in their internal economies. Otherwise, happy customers are the real alternative to high traffic volume.- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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© 2013 interbiznet.
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by John Sumser
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