Lies, Damned Lies, and Straying Blogger Statistics

The WSJ has a piece today arguing that blog traffic declines massively when a blogger goes away on holidays, even if they bring in a guest host. Here is the chart it used to try to make its point:

Compelling, right? Look at those declines when Sullivan and Malkin went on holidays. Must be the holidays that did it.

Maybe not. In both cases traffic had begun to fall off before the two bloggers went on holidays. Why? Almost certainly not in anticipation of upcoming holidays, but more likely because we were entering the August prime summer holidays season. In other words, blog readers were on holidays at the same time as the blog writer, so traffic would have been down anyway. Seasonality strikes me as a more compelling explanation than the one offered by the WSJ.

Related posts:

  1. Lies, Damned Lies, and Finance Papers
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  3. Dumpster Diving in Highway Traffic Data
  4. Conflicted.blogger.com
  5. The Rise and Fall of the Geek Blogger

Comments

  1. Spot on Paul. Blog traffic typically declines between 20-40% for bloggers during the summer, whether or not they post.

  2. A similar effect occurs on the weekends, if my Technorati feed stats and Blogbeat traffic stats are anything to go by.

  3. John K says:

    Maybe you could show us the stats from the your logs for that desparate period when you stopped posting for a few weeks.

  4. I seem to recall the writer also found thast dads bought beer and diapers on Friday nights?

  5. This is just another example of how statistics can be misused to make any point. I will have to agree with you as well Paul. Always a pleasure to read your posts.

  6. Seasonality it is, Paul. Our traffic at the alarm:clock went down in the summer and is back up again in the past week or so. Since we don’t have any one personality posting on our blog it reinforces that notion. I can also confirm the dips on the weekend. We even tried posting on Saturday and Sunday – to make sure the dip was not related to the fact that we put up fewer posts. It didn’t make a difference, which is a good thing because we like our weekends off.

  7. Dave Taylor says:

    Of course, smart bloggers recognize that they can *schedule* postings into the future, so instead of just vanishing from the scene for a week or three, they preload good general topic postings before they get on the plane.
    I take a lot of holidays (now that I think about it!) and always have articles scheduled for release while I’m gone. Heck, on my AskDaveTaylor.com weblog, even when I’m in town I have articles scheduled out a week or two in advance. Today, 1 Sept., I already have prewritten blog entries through the 12th of this month, all poised and ready to autopost when the right date & time rolls along
    I write about how to do this here:
    http://www.intuitive.com/blog/i_wrote_this_entry_five_days_ago.html
    Maybe some of these bloggers need to read my article so they can learn a different way of looking at timeliness and blogging. :-)