NYT Declines to Correct Kos Daily Visitor Error

On Thursday, The New York Times published a weblog story which included the following statement:
“A recent posting on DailyKos, a liberal Web site visited by more than 500,000 people daily, according to blog rankings posted on a site called The Truth Laid Bear…”
That evening, I replied with full snark. But after thinking about it a bit, I also decided to contact the Times directly and suggest that a correction was in order, as in my view, their statement innacurately suggests that Kos is visited by more than 500,000 individuals daily, when in reality, it is likely far fewer than that, but those individuals visit several times daily. And after all: my name is next to the inaccurate statement (the source being my Ecosystem Traffic Rankings, the sibling listing to the classic Ecosystem, which ranks by inbound links).
The following is the exchange of e-mails I had with Bill Borders, a senior editor at the Times, on the subject. To the Times’ credit, Bill replied swiftly to my initial inquiry. But in the end, I was unable to convince him that an error had been made. Read the discussion, and make your own judgment; feedback is welcome in the comments section.
Update 10/30 pm: Jeff Jarvis has posted on the subject, and says:
Bear is absolutely right and The Times is absolutely wrong. And I say that with the authority of an Internet executive who has dealt with these issues for 10 years now and as a founding member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation online committee that officially defined exactly these measurements with the Internet Advertising Bureau.
So I’m guessing that Bill Borders didn’t follow my advice to check with Jeff on this issue. Whoops.
(click ‘more’ if you are coming from the TTLB front page)



My initial e-mail to the Times:
From: N.Z. Bear
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 6:02 AM
To: ‘nytnews@nytimes.com’
Subject: Correction required to “Web Offers Hefty Voice to Critics of Mainstream Journalists” 10/28/04
Folks:
I publish the website The Truth Laid Bear, which was cited as a source in Jim Rutenberg’s piece on bloggers, “Web Offers Hefty Voice to Critics of Mainstream Journalists” dated 10/28 as follows:
“A recent posting on DailyKos, a liberal Web site visited by more than 500,000 people daily, according to blog rankings posted on a site called The Truth Laid Bear…”
The statement that Daily Kos is visited by more than 500,000 people daily based on my site’s rankings is inaccurate. The rankings on my site represent Average Daily Visits as tracked by SiteMeter (www.sitemeter.com). They represent the number of visits each blog receives during a day, with a visit being defined by SiteMeter as “a series of page views by one person with no more than 30 minutes in between page views” (http://www.sitemeter.com/default.asp?action=help#2).
What the data does NOT show is that it is 500,000 individual people visiting Kos’ site each day, as is stated in the Times article. It is far more likely (approaching certainty) that the number of individuals checking Kos’ site during a day is much smaller, and that each of them check back a few times during the day. If, for example, we assume each reader checks an average of twice a day, then it would be 250,000 people visiting daily. Given that Kos’ site is a major portal for political bloggers, it is quite possible that the number of visits-per-day-per-person is even higher, as loyal readers check back many times during the day to get the latest news; however, it is impossible to know this exactly based on the summary SiteMeter data provided on my site.
I would appreciate a correction to this item. And in the future, please be aware that I welcome inquiries from journalists, and am happy to assist in providing information and data for stories such as this one; simply email me at this address.
Thanks for your attention to this matter…
N.Z. Bear
The Truth Laid Bear
http://www.truthlaidbear.com
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Bill Borders’ first response:
From: Bill Borders
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 7:01 AM
To: N.Z. Bear
Subject: Re: Correction required to “Web Offers Hefty Voice to Critics of Mainstream Journalists” 10/28/04
Dear Mr. Bear:
Is this an error? I truly don’t know.
When we say that a site is visited “by more than 500,000 people daily,” do you think readers assume we mean 500,000 different people? An analogy that comes to mind is ridership on trains and subways. When we report the number of daily riders on New York’s subway system the figure includes me in the morning and me again in the evening. Is that counting double? And is the figure therefore wrong?
If we were wrong about DailyKos, we will indeed publish a correction, but I am not sure here. Can you give me some help and advice?
Thanks.
Bill Borders, senior editor
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My reply to Bill Borders:
From: N.Z. Bear
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 7:18 AM
To: ‘Bill Borders’
Subject: RE: Correction required to “Web Offers Hefty Voice to Critics of Mainstream Journalists” 10/28/04
Bill:
Thanks for your prompt reply! I definitely think people will interpret the statement as meaning more than 500,000 different people.
Ridership on subways is a reasonable example, but I think a better one is circulation statistics. If the a newspaper says that it is read “by more than 500,000 people daily”, would you assume that meant 500,000 individual people? Or that it might actually mean 100,000 people reading the same paper five times in a day? I think it would clearly be interpreted as 500,000 individuals, so I think the statement about Kos’ weblog will be as well.
At the very least, I think the statement would benefit from clarification to remove possible confusion. If you remain unconvinced, I’d suggest consulting other blogosphere-aware journalists and asking their opinion. Mickey Kaus (Mickey_Kaus@msn.com) or Jeff Jarvis ( jeff@buzzmachine.com ) would be good choices but I’m sure you’ve got more than them in your Contacts.
Appreciate the swift attention on this, and regards…
NZB
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Bill Borders’ final response:
From: Bill Borders
Sent: Friday, October 29, 2004 1:38 PM
To: N.Z. Bear
Cc: rmurawski
Subject: RE: Correction required to “Web Offers Hefty Voice to Critics of Mainstream Journalists” 10/28/04
Dear Mr. Bear:
I don’t think circulation statistics are comparable, because there would be no reason for one person to buy more than one copy of a single day’s paper (as he might well ride the subway several times a day or visit DailyKos several times a day).
After conferring with a couple of colleagues here who both know more about the subject than I do, I still don’t see the need for a correction, or know even what we might correct. But I hope we will be more precise in our diction in the future.
Thanks very much for writing, and for holding The Times to a high standard.
Best, Bill Borders, senior editor