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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Cincinnati Enquirer Says Website Gets 2.1 Million Uniques Monthly: Other Surveys Raise ????

CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The Cincinnati Enquirer is claiming its portal is drawing "more than 2.1 million unique users per month." The claim might be a hollow boast and it looks suspiciously inflated. National data released less than a month ago measured the U.S. newspaper industry's most-visited Websites, and that data does not show the Enquirer among the Top 30. If the Enquirer had 2.1 million unique users on a monthly basis, one would expect to see the Gannett Co. Inc. daily holding place No. 20 in the national rankings. Its online audience would have been larger than that measured for the Seattle Times, which has 1.915 million unique users, a 6% increase over 2007. But the list (see link above) does not show the Enquirer ahead of the Seattle Times -- the Enquirer doesn't even show up among the top 30. The Enquirer's claim would make it the most-visited online holding among Gannett's newspapers after USA Today, which is shown with 10,785,000 unique users monthly, No. 2 after the New York Times.

Where did the Enquirer's claim of such a huge online audience originate? In a house ad. In today's print edition classified advertising section on page C-7, the Cincinnati morning daily is running a help-wanted ad for an account executive to sell online advertising. The ad states:

"Would you like to become part of a dynamic organization. Cincinnati.Com is the region's most-visited an informative local website with more than 2.1 million unique users per month. In addition, it received the industry's highest national journalism accolades for content, including the Eppy, the Digital Edge, the James K. Batten Award and more . . ."

Those "highest national journalism accolades" don't include a Pulitzer Prize -- normally considered the the industry's highest award, nor a Polk, a Society of Professional Journalists or a National Headliner. Another boast by the Enquirer? Other data about newspaper online audiences is
available here, but it is from 2007.


  1. .

    The 'fishwRap' may have also engaged in censorship. A poster claims that the number and visible posts don't match ?

    The claim is that the public can not see a post on the public view, yet, on the posters log-in view the post is clearly visible ?

    At the time of this posting the number claimed posted is 7, yet, only 6 are visible ?


  2. Mr. Sloat,

    Thanks for reading The Enquirer and using Cincinnati.Com. I appreciate your post because it gives me a welcome opportunity to make a clarification I always enjoy making. (I’m being serious.)

    The 2.1 million unique users figure is reported by Omniture SiteCatalyst, a leading industry traffic measurement platform used by more than 4,400 companies worldwide. ( Omniture logs users’ activity on our Web sites. We and other customers pay Omniture to do this. Data is captured using Omniture-supplied JavaScript on our Web pages. Since Omniture measures actual usage, its figures are the most accurate measurement of our Web sites’ usage.

    Nielsen//NetRatings reports a smaller figure because it uses a different methodology to collect data. Nielsen estimates Web traffic based on its sampling of the activity of recruited panelists. Nielsen’s panel often under-represent news Web sites because panelists are less likely to be the at-work/day-time commercial audience that constitutes the majority of most news sites’ views, visits and unique users. Therefore, Cincinnati.Com traffic – as well as that of other sites Nielsen measured – is under-reported.

    Cincinnati.Com’s usage was further under-reported by Nielsen (and ComScore, Alexa and various others) because in August 2007, Cincinnati.Com was actually a collection of various different domains, such as,,, and many more. Since Nielsen doesn’t aggregate usage of those domains into the Cincinnati.Com figure, their reporting is incomplete.

    Almost every major U.S. news Web site regularly has to explain discrepancies between actual traffic (as measured by vendors such as Omniture or WebTrends) and estimated audience (as measured by Nielsen, ComScore and others). That’s why I welcome the chance to make this clarification.

    For perspective, Scarborough Research’s 2008 Newspaper Audience Ratings Report found that Cincinnati.Com was tied for second place in audience delivery among the top 35 U.S. markets, reaching 18% of total adults each week. (The top site was that of The Washington Post, which delivered 22% of D.C.-area adults each week. Tied with Cincinnati.Com at 18% audience delivery were the sites of Atlanta Journal-Constitution and San Diego Union-Tribune.)

    I’m happy to take questions or comments at, and/or on the Cincinnati.Com staff blog at


  3. Jim --

    First off, call me Bill whenever you drop by. Mr. Sloat sounds way too formal.

    Second, thanks for your explanation. It was both interesting and fascinating and adds a lot to what we all should know about uniques and visits, who counts and how they are counted.

    A question. The NAA, the trade group for the newspaper industry, uses Nielsen data. Is that not the gold standard? Or is some other mechanism emerging? I know that broadcasters for years have questioned the accuracy of Nielsen's ratings numbers, but nonetheless the Nielsen data was widely acknowledged and accepted as the most reliable headcount or census of TV viewers and radio listeners. Maybe things are evolving as times change . . .

    Again, thanks for stopping by. It was a classy thing to do. And I will give the Enquirer, and all newspapers, a plug. I read print publications every day. I can't imagine a day starting without that trip to the end of the driveway to fetch my newspaper, then poring over the pages with a cup of coffee.

  4. If they look deeper into the Omniture data they will realize their unique visitor report can't be true.

    First of all, a high percentage of people clean their cookies on a regular basis (1 out 5 clean them daily) and it also reflects a lot of duplicate readership (logging on from work and home)

    Their claim would place them higher than and Quantcast, Compete, Nielsen, and Comscore all report to have slightly over 650,000 uniques which is very respectable.

  5. Bill,

    Thanks so much for your gracious words. No need at all to offer a “plug” of any kind, but the sentiments are appreciated.

    To answer your question about whether Nielsen really is a “gold standard” or not, the answer is that the advertising/agency community generally regards Nielsen as a source they expect media to cite. As a result, NAA and others who represent the “newspaper” industry have to cite Nielsen data, though they often try to supplement that data with other sources. ComScore is another one often cited by advertisers/agencies, and thus media must offer and work with those numbers, whether they’re accurate or not.

    (Advertiser/agency expectations are also why media sites talk about “uniques” in the first place. We ourselves care about individuals in our local audience, not so much about how many “unique users” a third-party analytics system measures. However, the reality is that the first question one gets asked by local and national agencies is “how many monthly unique do you reach?” Since advertisers/agencies speak and think in terms of unique users, our own business-to-business marketing materials must use the same language and framework.)

    I’d like to reiterate that I’m not saying Nielsen, ComScore or other panel-based measurement approaches underestimate only Cincinnati.Com usage. I’m saying they underestimate most, or probably all, “newspaper” Web sites; the numbers they report for,, etc., are all probably well understated.

    Their reporting of Cincinnati.Com has probably been more underestimated than some other news sites due to the Cincinnati.Com network formerly being comprised of so many unrelated domains. This is why so many major websites now have everything organized under one domain or as subdomains under one domain (e.g., ). This is commonly done not only for search engine optimization, but also so that it helps websites get more accurate measurement in ComScore, Alexa and so on. (For example, now redirects to . To improve accuracy of third-party traffic estimates, we took a page from the same book and recently redirected to ).

    8:07 PM also makes a great point. The “unique visitors” or “unique users” figures reported by any Web site will be substantially greater than the number of actual people they reach, particularly local people. The ratio between “uniques” and “people” is hard to know and varies site-to-site, but the number of people is definitely going to be at least 50-60% smaller than the number of uniques. As 8:07 points out, one issue is how many people clear their cookies and how often. Other factors include how many users access a site on multiple appliances (PC at home, PC at work, PDA, phone, etc.), plus how many users (or their networks) ignore cookie requests, how many users originate outside the local market, how many cookies are not passed or recognized due to transmission failures, etc. etc.