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Circulation wars

Media Insider - How to check online 'circulation'

When I started out in journalism everybody was interested in one statistic – circulation. That meant how many papers did you sell. Then when the numbers of sales went down those crafty newspaper executives came up with the idea of giving copies away for free – for example at congresses where the advertisers pay the cost of the publication or to airlines and hotels where even if they didn't sell it, they had the chance that somebody might think "this is a good paper" – and take a subscription – and of course they still included these free promotional copies in their circulation figures even if they weren't really "sold".

When numbers still continued to fall they came up with a new statistic – a rather clever one – readership. Papers that had a circulation of 100,000 were suddenly claiming a readership of 500,000. They worked that figure out by trying to estimate how many people read every edition – so it might be that the Sunday Times was picked up by dad but then one of the sections was read by mum and then the children's comic inside was read by two children and maybe an elderly relative living in the spare room – so for every newspaper they estimated five readers. A free newspaper could claim for example that people would read it quickly and then leave it on the train where it would be read by several other people who all did the same. Readership was a godsend.

But numbers still continued to fall – no matter how much they played with them. And then came the Internet and the ways to measure circulation - which is now not called circulation anymore – have multiplied enormously.

And that started heated debate in my office this month – on our server for the Austrian Times we have a little counter that tells us it measures hits and visitors. But we also have something called a webalyser which is a program which offers the number of visitors – and then there is Google analytics which also has unique visitors among other statistics. And none of these figures seem to have anything to do with the other. They all had wildly different amounts – and searching the Internet was absolutely no use at all in finding something to explain the whole problem.

But into the breach stepped our new CMO Yuval Harari with the following that I felt it was only fair to share. If you want to know about the world of circulation as it applies to the online business – then read on.

"Dear Team, Hope this note helps you to make some sense out of all this mess. You are right about the need to know exactly how much and what kind of traffic you have.

Let us set the terminology right, so we can work together better, understand each other and be updated like pros.

Please forget the word "HITS". It is totally not relevant to you, me or anyone. "HITS" is an old word from the 90's. If you must know once and for all what it is, well, A "HIT" is the amount of added elements to a web page. For example, pictures, links, or anything else other than the main content. So in fact, when 1 page loads by one user click, that page is actually worth 4 or 5 or more "HITS", because, as we just learned, the HITS are made of elements on page.

I am almost 100% sure, that the server stats that our server monitors is based on HITS and impressions. That is why this counter seems to have so much traffic …sorry to disappoint. And so we are clear on that - No more HITS!!

So what do we monitor then? Ahh, good question, thanks for asking! Well, a few things, here they are:

Unique visitors: That’s 1 IP, or if you will, computer, that is counted per 24 hours. That means that when you log in to your computer early in the morning, and visit the Austrian Times (AT) site, you are counted as 1 "click" or shall I say "user". From this moment on, no matter how many times you go in and out of AT, you are still considered only 1 user. All your visits are not counted anymore. So, if we know that AT generated 2500 "unique users" a day, that means that 2500 real totally different users came in today. Some of them probably come back the same day, but we count the initial entry only. OK???? Unique users is very important to advertisers as it tells the your REACH, that is, your real power to get real different users from real different places.

Users or visitors :  well, this refers to the number of entrees to your site and is counting every entry from no matter what IP or computer. So, if Michael Leidig (Austrian Times News Director) was the ONLY user on his website, and he entered his site TEN times today, he would have 1 unique user and 10 visitors in total. See it as a Brutto or Gross. Okay?

Page views:  An advertiser will like to know how many page views you have. THIS IS NOT IMPRESSIONS! , A page view is basically a page loaded. Say Michael Leidig enters AT's home page, then clicks on sports and then clicks on Business and finally exits. So how many page views did you count? That's right, 3. Home page, sports and business.  This Page views is important because the more pages viewed, the more ad space available for him.

Impressions :  that is the number a link or banner has been displayed to a user. That’s important to understand. You can have 10,000 page views a week in "Travel" sections, but only 6000 banner impressions. How is that? Well, maybe the banner is in rotation with other adverts? Maybe it didn’t load each time and thus wasn’t displayed. If you have 25,000 displays of some page, it doesn’t mean you have 25,000 impressions. Impressions are referred only to banners and NOT to pages. ( you have "page views" for that) So, don’t get mixed up 

Many advertisers will buy IMPRESSIONS from you. They don’t care how many page views, or unique users or anything for that sake, they buy 200k impressions, so you give them 200k times the banner in the air displayed. Now, this is tricky, if you put 2 banners for the same advertiser on the same page….he gets 2 impressions! Not 1, because its one page. Get it?

Also in the category of impressions, you will find the term CPM. That’s cost per mille (in Latin=thousand), So if someone buys 100k IMPRESSIONS at $1000, he paid $10 CPM
Calculation :  Budget / impressions x 1000 =  or in numbers :   $1000 / 100,000 x 1000 = $10 CPM

Use a quick tool free here http://www.clickz.com/cpm-calculator

Ok? Great!

Next is CTR, that's Click Through Rate. That means, How many clicks did a banner or link get out of X impressions.

Let's see, Say we have a banner that was displayed only 100 times. That’s 100 impression right? Now, that banner was clicked only once. That would give us a CTR of…….Yes! , 1%. 1 out of 100.

Now let's say a banner was displayed 478,562 times and got 126 clicks. Hmmm, rrrrrr, Well, the formula is easy :

126  clicks / 478,562 impressions  =  2.63 CTR

So, to finalize this short brief, What are advertisers after? They will want to know how many unique users you have, how many page views you generate and how many impressions you can deliver, Some might ask for a CTR, but note, CTR varies from one campaign to another based on the attractiveness of the banner and the relevancy to the audience.

Think about this for a moment, what is a better CTR or campaign in general :

A static nice designed banner that says : Get your third night free in Vienna Hilton Hotel 

Or

A flashy banner with no clue on it that says : YOU ARE ENTITELED TO GET $200 FREE, CLICK HERE NOW TO CLAIM!

I bet the second banner, the flash one, as will get 20 times more clicks, making a higher CTR, but can you compare it to the low CTR banner of Hilton?

I bet that although the hotel banner will get just a few clicks, they are far better in quality than the ones clicking out of curiosity on the flashy one.

So CTR is not all that too important. Make sure you tell it to your advertiser. Give him the example I just made.

Hope we all speak the same language now, No more HITS eh ?

------------------------------

And that is it really - thanks Yuval for the explanation and I hope it helps others, and even if it doesn't that it brings us on this online news website lots of hits - sorry – I mean unique visitors generating one extra page view and offering impressions that improve our CTR.

Austrian Times


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