How much traffic do the Edmonton Journal and iNews880 get from Twitter?

Depending on who you talk to, Twitter is either killing news media or saving it. A recent analysis by Hitwise found that less than 0.2% of people who use Twitter wind up going to news and media sites (thanks to Karen for the link). Their analysis looks at Twitter as a whole though, and I’m not sure how well it accounts for local news sites. I believe very strongly that social media has the greatest impact at the local level (more on this in a future post). Given that, I have long wondered how Twitter has impacted local news media here in Edmonton. Last night, I finally did some analysis. I decided to explore how much traffic the Edmonton Journal and iNews880, Edmonton’s two top tweeting media outlets, received from Twitter last year.

@EdmontonJournal

First up, the Edmonton Journal. They’ve been tweeting news articles since at least January 2009, so I had lots of data to play with. They used tweetburner to shorten links until September when they switched to bit.ly. Using the APIs available from those services, I added up all the click stats for all the links posted by The Journal. Here’s what I found:

Lots of variation, as you can see. Some of that is down to the use of two services, some of it is because of the number of Twitter users. There are probably dozens of other factors too.

For the period January 30 through December 31:

  • A total of 153,968 clicks were recorded on 4737 links.
  • That’s an average of 33 clicks per link, and an average of 15 links per day.
  • According to the stats on the bit.ly links, 95.4% of clicks come from the Edmonton Journal’s hash*.
  • The link with the most clicks (700) was this one, on May 26. It doesn’t work, because annoyingly The Journal doesn’t display old articles for some reason, but it appears it was about Edmonton’s Poet Laureate Roland Pemberton.
  • The day with the most clicks, September 14, doesn’t appear to be special…just lots of clicks that day for some reason (any ideas?).

@iNews880

Next up, iNews880, one of the first local media organizations to join Twitter. They used tinyurl.com until July, when Twitter switched the default to bit.ly, so unfortunately I only have data for the latter half of the year:

For the period July 14 through December 31:

  • A total of 90,500 clicks were recorded on 3811 links.
  • That’s an average of 24 clicks per link, and an average of 22 links per day.
  • According to the stats on the bit.ly links, 93.8% of clicks come from iNews880’s hash*.
  • The link with the most clicks (1933) was this one, on August 2 (that’s the huge spike in the graph above). The link goes to the report on the Big Valley Jamboree stage collapse, and it was popular because it included before and after photos.

Edmonton Journal vs. iNews880

I wanted to do a quick comparison, so I chose the period September 17 through December 31, because both sites used bit.ly for links during that time. Here’s what it looks like:

During that time:

  • The Edmonton Journal posted 2369 links (23 per day) and iNews880 posted 2261 links (22 per day).
  • A total of 79,519 clicks were recorded on Edmonton Journal links (an average of 751 per day or 34 per link).
  • A total of 53,815 clicks were recorded on iNews880 links (an average of 508 per day or 24 per link).

Thoughts

That’s a lot of clicks! Clearly Twitter and other social networking sites (where most shortlinks are posted) are having an impact. But how much? According to the latest report by the Newspaper Audience Databank (NADbank), weekly online readership at EdmontonJournal.com increased by 35% last year to 115,900 from 85,800 in 2008. That’s an increase of 30,100 readers per week. According to the click stats above, The Journal received 3208 clicks per week in 2009. So what does that mean?

Roughly 10.7% of the Edmonton Journal’s online readership increase in 2009 came as a result of posting links to Twitter.

And if I had to guess, I’d say my analysis probably underestimates things. Apparently the NADbank data is based on surveys, so I’m not sure how accurate it is, but it’s probably within acceptable margins of error. I’m also not sure what exactly a “reader” is – a page view, a visit, etc.

Caveats

I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible, but I can’t make any guarantees!

  • All the click stats are current as of last night.
  • I’m suggesting that all the clicks come via Twitter, when that’s probably not entirely true. Links get passed around, displayed on websites, etc. But the shortlinks do originate at Twitter.
  • It’s possible that The Journal or iNews880 posted a link to somewhere other than their own sites, but uncommon. I did remove one link from the iNews880 dataset, because it pointed to an Environment Canada site (it was obvious, lots of total clicks as others have linked there too). For the rest, I’m making the assumption that the links point to the news sites.
  • I don’t know how reliable the stats from bit.ly and tweetburner are. I suspect they are quite a bit different than server logs or Google Analytics metrics.
  • I would assume that both services tweaked the way stats are calculated throughout the year, so 15 clicks on a bit.ly link in May is probably different than 15 clicks on a bit.ly link in December.

* – When you shorten a link using bit.ly, you get a unique hash. If I shorten the same link, I get a different hash. The stats are recorded and made available individually and in aggregate, however.

6 thoughts on “How much traffic do the Edmonton Journal and iNews880 get from Twitter?

  1. Thanks for this, Mack. Most fascinating. But tell me….were you only counting links “tweeted” by our Edmonton Journal tweetbot, or were you also counting links tweeted by individuals like me or Trish Audette or Sarah O’Donnell? I intuitively feel that my own readership has gone up since I started tweeting links to my own stuff, but I have no “evidence” — beyond the intuition of my own ego.

  2. Paula – great point. Just links tweeted by the Edmonton Journal account are included. However, that means that if you also tweeted a link that @EdmontonJournal tweeted (the same aggregate bit.ly link), then the stats are included in the above.

    It would be interesting, but much more difficult, to include stats from you and the other Journal and iNews880 reporters who tweet links. That’s why I mentioned that my analysis probably underestimates Twitter’s impact.

  3. Nice high level analysis. Unfortunately there are a lot of grey areas when comparing apples to oranges. Does NADbank count mobile users as web site visitors? The Journal’s launching of a mobile site last September obviously had a major impact – look at the Journal chart for the year and there is a big jump in mid-September that is sustained throughout the year. I think that is beause of the mobile site, not the number of Twitter users or the switch of URL shorteners. I suspect Twitter’s impact would be felt more in the growth of the Journal’s mobile site than it would be in terms of their UV and page view numbers for their regular site. Just my opinion.

  4. Robert – As I mentioned, I’m not sure about the NADbank stats. I’m also not sure the mobile site had such an impact. Reading a tweet on my mobile device, I’m not thinking “oh EJ has a mobile site so I’ll click that”. Twitter clearly has a lot of mobile users, but during the day? Between 9 and 5, when most people are on Twitter? I’d guess they’re probably at computers.

  5. Mack:

    Great post. I find it interesting, and am personally fascinated with the impact of things like Social Media on Traditional Media.

    What is fascinating in all of this analysis, is that Edmontonian’s who did use Twitter to access their news, paid NOTHING for that access. I ignore advertisements, I stopped subscribing years ago, and yet I feel more informed and have greater access to real-time news and broader opinion than I ever did.

    I believe that Twitter and Facebook can help make or break a journalist or reporter, but sadly it can’t save the business model of a traditional newspaper.

    I personally believe that we will see new institutions in the next 5-10 years that will replace the existing for-profit model. Likely much higher-end investigative journalism and editorial content, but at a much higher per publication costs or subscription cost for non-published media.

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