In the comments to my earlier post (and in an identical post at Wizbang), Kevin Aylward makes an interesting observation:

I find the traffic statistics more interesting than the ecosystem ratings. Ecosystem ratings are heavily weighted towards blogroll links, and while there may be a corelation with blogroll links and traffic, plain old traffic rankings seem like the most relavant “stat” in terms of popularity. From a marketing perspective that is certainly what an advertiser would be looking at.

This is probably so, at least from a marketing standpoint. But I think the linkage tracks something valuable, too: how much “buzz” a site generates. Some sites get a lot of traffic because they provide a valuable clipping service but don’t really say anything. And some get a lot of traffic because they’ve been around a long time and are part of people’s habits even though, frankly, they aren’t very good.

In some ways, it’s like comparing music based on critical opinions, the degree to which they influence other artists, and record sales. They all tell us different things. Shania Twain sold more records last year than, say, Lucinda Williams. The latter will have a lot more impact on music than the former. That’s to take nothing away from Twain, who is quite entertaining and is able to get lots of people to part with a valuable asset, their cash. But Williams’ lack of massive sales doesn’t necessarily make her an inferior artist. More people watch Adam Sandler movies than plays by Shakespeare, for that matter.

Part of the link-traffic disparity comes from “who” is reading and linking. When Glenn Reynolds finds something I say worth linking, it generates several orders of magnitude more traffic than when a Flippery Fish does the same. I’m not sure why FF’s opinion is necessarily to be valued less than Glenn’s just because Glenn has more readers. There are a lot of intelligent, knowledgeable people with blogs out there.

Of course, many of the highly linked blogs are also very high traffic blogs–as well as being well written and interesting. And, just so this isn’t viewed as a sour grapes perspective, ye ole OTB is at a similar spot on both listings, sitting at #71 by traffic and #62 by links.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.