Om Malik wrote a post last night about a Facebook traffic drop but was skeptical of the validity of the information. Today Om explained the drop in an update post where Paul Sutter, co-founder & president of Quantcast told him the reason was that (Om writes) "ComScore has a panel that has a bias toward Internet users who log on
from home. The same is true of all measurement panels – Nielsen,
Hitwise or Quantcast. As kids go back to school, they vanish from the
OK, makes sense. The measurement panels don’t accurately represent the level of traffic from college users. Yet here’s what reps from a couple of the major measurement services had to say (from Om’s post) about traffic at one of the most prominent Internet properties in the world:
Andrew Lipsman of comScore: "Last year, there was a similar dip in visitation at
Facebook, which suggests there are some seasonal factors at play.
Another important factor that has not been mentioned is that September
has 1 fewer day than August."
Hitwise: "There is a small dip for Facebook in terms of U.S. visits
it appears for the last few weeks, but looking back over time this
could be more seasonal than anything."
So, apparently, the real reason for the traffic pattern is because of the makeup of their measurement panels. Yet, both of these companies chalked this up to "seasonal factors."
Why is this significant? Well, traffic numbers from firms like these are often the "facts" upon which stories are built that help define entire markets in the emerging technology world. Yet, when they don’t have a clue about what’s going on with traffic at a company as high profile as Facebook, one has to question how valid a basis for analysis this type of "data" really is.