If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my first year as Managing Director of Security Media Publishing, it’s that media organisations are renowned for inflating their readership and circulation figures to make them more appealing to potential advertisers.
Now, in what you could call the Ice Bucket Challenge for the publishing industry, I’m challenging our fellow publishers to take a cold dose of reality and be more open about their online statistics.
Following The Security Catalogue’s merger with Security Media Publishing in December last year I have launched a campaign to increase how open the company is about readership and circulation for SecurityNewsDesk, SecurityMiddleEast and TheSecurityCatalogue. The motivation fuelling my campaign is to make sure that companies advertising through Security Media Publishing’s channels are always given the best independent and honest overview of the web traffic through its sites. This way, our advertisers can base buying decisions on a true understanding of our reach.
To achieve this, I had to embark on a journey of research and analysis of both the market and Security Media Publishing’s portfolio. A clear example of dedication to delivering value to advertisers is evident in our decision to stop publishing CCTV Image magazine. This was a magazine Security Media Publishing had produced in partnership with the CCTV User Group for many years, and the move to cease production was based purely on analysis of the audience and its influence. I realised that its demography had changed and did not contain the decision makers I would want to say to advertisers we could influence. I couldn’t therefore with any credibility continue to ask advertisers to invest in the publication and the CCTV User Group was not in a position to fund its continued publication, so I took the difficult and sad decision to remove it from our portfolio.
To achieve Security Media Publishing’s vision of openness I realised that we would need to publish readership statistics via an independent source that no one would be able to claim had been adjusted to suit an agenda. It was also important that the source did not operate on an “if you subscribe you get a better ranking” basis. After much analysis of the many options on the market, I decided the best course of action was to simply be open with the websites’ Server Stats – showing traffic through the hosting servers, something no one has any influence over.
These statistics clearly show the number of unique visitors, number of times they visited, number of pages each visitor read and how many hits (clicks) they generated per visit on SecurityNewsDesk.com. As you can see, our monthly average is approximately 20,000 unique visitors and is growing steadily.
However, tracking how many visitors and how often they visited is only part of the story. Next I wanted to know where these came from and the geographic spread of our audience. Again, Server Stats offer a clear overview but do not allow for like-for-like comparison with other publications – Alexa.com did. This meant that I could compare Security Media Publishing’s website’s figures with those of other media outlets.
Alexa.com reports SecurityNewsDesks geographic spread as follows:
If you look at our marketing material, specifically the GeoStats document, you can clearly see that Alexa.com supports the statistics we claim. However, when compared to our server statistics the lead visiting country named on our GeoStats document can actually flip between UK and USA , but over an annual basis they are almost the same.
Using the comparison features available on Alexa.com, it’s clear that the reported Geo spread of other leading security news sources (as of 01 Sep 14) is very different:
- SourceSecurity.com – 41.4% India, 10.3% UK, 8.8% and 0.9% Iran
- ProfessionalSecurity.co.uk – 42.6% India, 27.1% Germany and 21.5% UK
- IFSECGlobal.com – 43.7% UK and 33% India
CCTVinfo.com, SecurtyBuyer.com, Psimagazine.co.uk and Risk-uk.com do not generate enough traffic for Alexa.com to index their activity.
Of note, one of these providers states on their website that “… Receives more than 180,000 unique visitors per month, predominantly from UK, Europe and N America” – this claim is NOT supported by the unbiased Alexa.com overview. Another company doesn’t make any geographic readership claims for its online business at all – why are they hiding the figures or making misleading claims?
The final challenge on my mission remained – analysing who the visitors to our sites are. The answer lay with an independent analytical tool called Lead Forensics. Lead Forensics enabled an accurate overview of all of the companies who visit the Security Media Publishing sites, allowing the Security Media Publishing team to track individual stories and who is reading what. For example, a story about higher education campus security management, posted on SecurityNewsDesk.com on the 27th Aug 2014, was read by 19 different higher education establishments within the first two working hours on the morning of 28th August.
Putting together this sort of information allows the Security Media Publishing team to prove position and readership, as well as accurately track and report on actual influence. If we can provide this level of accuracy and reporting on an editorial post, just imagine how accurate the reporting on your advertising campaign will be?
With increasing regulation and tighter budgets across all industries it is time for there to be one standard for media providers – a standard of honesty and openness to genuinely help advertisers measure their return on investment and spend their budget wisely. Security Media Publishing is in a pole position, ready to lead the way and set the benchmarks for this standard. We’re throwing down the gauntlet to the rest of the industry.
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Since posting this article we have received the below comment from John Honovich of IPVM:
I enjoyed you raising this topic and providing such details.
Based on my experience at IPVM, a few points of feedback:
- Are you using AWstats for your web server statistics? If so, it may be over counting visitors compared to Google analytics, Quantcast, etc. due to a difference in measurement techniques. See this article –http://www.devonwebdesigners.com/2567/awstats-vs-webalizer-vs-google-analytics/
- Alexa is notoriously inaccurate for niche sites like surveillance because they do not have access to direct logs / visits and are simply guestimating. For example, Alexa says IPVM has 20%+ visitors from India but our analytics based on real visitor logs and IP addresses shows ~2%. I obviously do not know the stats for those UK pubs you cite, but I would not be surprised if they were high.
- You might be interested in checking some verified public data for US security magazines. For example for SIW, see:https://www.quantcast.com/securityinfowatch.com and you can search for different publications traffic here –http://www.bpaww.com/Bpaww_com/Pages/CirculationReports.aspx many include web stats
I’d like to extend my thanks to John for his helpful comments and address his points.
Yes we use AWStats but a version that scrubs the bots, worms etc., so we only report the human traffic. I concur 100% with the article that you can’t compare google with server stats and so on. You have to use one and I chose Server with the auto stuff removed, which was the only real criticism with AWStats. I am sure the indexing on different servers happens in different ways also.
Alexa – I share the same scepticism as you, but to compare different publications I had to use like with like and interestingly my IP address analysis and server geodata analysis roughly matched my Alexa geodata.
Thank you for the other verified public data sites – they look good and I will get the team to look at them from our perspective. However, many of the UK publications don’t feature, or have blocked those sites from indexing them, so it would be remiss of me to use them in a comparative article.