Blog Traffic from Mainstream Media

John Hawkins notes a curious phenomenon that I’ve noticed myself: mentions of a blog in a major newspaper or opinion column almost invariably send far less traffic to a blog than a mention in even a semi-prominent blog. This past February, I was featured prominently in a story in the Washington Post. I noticed no significant spike in traffic. Ditto appearances on national radio shows or articles published at Tech Central Station. A mention from, say, Dean Esmay or Bill at INDC Journal, though, will send hundreds of visitors my way.

John hypothesizes that this has to do with the level of engagement of readers:

Could it be possible that more people actually read Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit each day than read Howard Kurtz? Does Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs actually have more people laying eyeballs on what he writes each day than say any one column at MSNBC?

While this is indeed possible, my guess is it has to do with the nature of the readers rather than the number. People reading blogs expect there to be links to back up assertions and the culture of the blogosphere demands that we link to our sources, including other blogs. Many blogs are mainly links with a couple of snappy comments. Blog readers, therefore, are accustomed to following links. By contrast, most mentions of a website in the online version of a newspaper story don’t even contain a link to the site in question. Newspaper readers are accustomed to taking the reporters’ word for it and to a self-contained experience.

I’m sure Howard Kurtz–and certainly, Tom Friedman–have more readers than I do. Ego-wise, there’s not much question that being mentioned by Friedman or Kurtz would be more gratifying. From a sheer traffic standpoint, though, you’d rather have a link from OTB than a mention from one of them.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jeff Quinton says:

    A topic was mentioned on Laura Ingraham back in the summer and the ensuing searches on that topic gave me a huge spike. Granted, my blog wasn’t mentioned by name or URL.

  2. Bithead says:

    Well, there’s something else at work here, too.
    While being mentioned on a top-shelf blog will cetaily create traffic on your blog… (can YOU say “INSTA-LANCHE”?) such a mention has somehting a bit in the local paper doesn’t have… the ability to create an actual link.

    Yes, the paper can put your URL up, but, it’s not the same. Clicking on a newspaper may get you weird looks in the office, but will produce little else.

  3. James Joyner says:

    Bithead: Sure. But this applies to mentions in the online versions of said papers, which are presumably pretty well read. Indeed, I usually recycle the paper edition of WaPo but almost invariably read at least part of it online.

    And this seems to be true, too, of online-only versions of MSM articles.

  4. sortapundit says:

    Could it be possible that more people actually read Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit each day than read Howard Kurtz? Does Charles Johnson over at Little Green Footballs actually have more people laying eyeballs on what he writes each day than say any one column at MSNBC?

    I have no idea who draws the highest readership, but I’d wager that the average Charles Johnson post, partisan and tendentious it will be, gets more engaged readers than the column of your choice at MSNBC.

  5. Bithead says:

    James; Point about online versions taken.

    Sortapundit; And isn’t that interesting? Most bloggers have their most recent readership figures out there for all to see, and verified by some commercial service, or in the case of those in the eco-system, by one of their competitors.

    And more; We know, in the case of bloggers, normally on a page by page basis, what is being read. We can’t do that with the papers, for teh reasons that James demonstrates; Buying the paper doesn’t mean the bloody thing actually gets READ.

  6. sortapundit says:

    Buying the paper doesn’t mean the bloody thing actually gets READ.

    Damn right. The only paper I buy is the Wall Street Journal, and the only reason I still do that is because I used to work for them. Very rarely do I sit down and read the thing (Friday excepted: the crossword and the personal journal kick ass).