Just a quick navel-gazing post that will be boringly familiar to many of you but might be eye-opening to others.
As you probably know, this blog gets a lot of traffic for a science community blog: about 60,000 pageviews and 25,000-30,000 unique visitors per month. (Thanks for reading, everybody!) But as some of you may not know, those numbers give a very overinflated impression of our audience size. Because guess how long the average visit to Dynamic Ecology lasts? Seriously, guess!
No, lower. 🙂
Try approximately 60 seconds. Which isn’t long enough to read even one of our typical posts.
Ok, those data come from a third party visitor-tracking website rather than WordPress, so they’re probably not spot on. But I know they’re close, because the same is true for pretty much every website. For instance, the average visit to Andrew Gelman’s blog lasts less than 2 minutes; the same is true for the average visit to FiveThirtyEight and Vox. Heck, it only goes up to about 3 minutes at the New York Times, which is mostly paywalled and gets much of its traffic from subscribers who you’d think would visit for extended periods.
In fact, it’s even worse than the average visit length makes it look. Because a large fraction of visitors to Dynamic Ecology, or any website, only stay for a few seconds. Whether because they found us via search only to discover we weren’t what they were looking for, or decided that that day’s post title didn’t sound interesting, or whatever. The average visit length is longer than the modal length (while remaining short in an absolute sense) because only a fraction of visitors stay long enough to read something.
So if you want to know how widely read this (or any) website is, the answer is “Not nearly as widely read as you’d think, just looking at the traffic data.”
Similar skewness shows up in our unique visitor data. I said above that we get about 25,000-30,000 unique visitors per month. But we typically get about 8,000 per week, which only adds up to our monthly unique visitor count if the large majority of visitors in any given week are making their only visit of the month. And we get about 350,000 unique visitors per year,
which implies that most of the visitors who visit us in a given month are making their only visit of the year. (Correction: WordPress determines the yearly unique visitor total by summing the monthly totals. That doesn’t affect the main point of this post, though.) There probably aren’t more than a few hundred people, maybe 1000 at most, who read us regularly (for any reasonable definition of “regularly”). Again, I’m sure something similar is true for almost any website.
Which is fine, by the way; I’m not bemoaning this state of affairs! It is what it is, and there’s no changing it unless you’re Facebook. I remain flattered, humbled, and proud that we’re as widely-read as we are. But I find it a useful reality check to remind myself that only a small fraction of ecologists (or scientists, or academics, or etc.) read us more than once in a blue moon.