Facebook “likes” on your pages? Don’t count on them.

If your site includes Facebook “like” buttons to encourage people to share your content, be careful about how you use those numbers — or how seriously you take them.

Clint Watson writes in  Facebook Like Button Count Inaccuracies:

The Facebook “like” buttons you see embedded on websites incorrectly report the number of “people” who “like” something. Specifically, the button can inflate the displayed count of people.  While this is fine when all you want to do is track some general level of “engagement” with a particular item, it was not accurate for the use I needed – counting each “like” as a vote in our BoldBrush Online painting competition.

What I needed is a way to get the number of actual people who “like” something.  And there is a way to retreive that information from Facebook, but it is often a different number from what is shown on the “like” button itself.

If you are a geek – here’s the bottom line of this post:

If you’re using the Facebook “Like” Button Social Plugin and you need an accurate count of the actual number of people who have clicked the “like” button, you can’t rely on the number reported by the button itself.  You need to retrieve your URL’s “fan count” number via Facebook’s Open Graph API.

Hat tip to Zach Seward for bringing this to my attention.

Alexa web traffic stats: Display varies by browser

Earlier today I was editing a post by Susan Mernit on Oakland Local (the community news & views site I’ve been working on lately). She was using the popular service Alexa.com to compare traffic statistics for three other Oakland-based web sites, for her post today: Can you gentrify the local web?

I got pretty confused when I couldn’t immediately replicate on Alexa the results of the searches Susan linked to there. Alexa appeared to be displaying some very different types of information from what Susan’s story described.

Finally, I realized that, at least on a Mac, the information that Alexa displays for site statistics can vary by browser.

Here’s an example…

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Do Newspapers Count Online Readers Fairly?

apples and oranges
The way many newspapers count print vs. online readers is like comparing apples and oranges. (Image by telex via Flickr)

Newspaper publishers and advertising managers routinely toss around print and online readership numbers — but sometimes in ways that don’t make sense, and that might even miss opportunities to build revenue, business, and community.

Yesterday Dan Thornton, community marketing manager at Bauer Media, explained why it’s dangerous to compare print figures to Web site statistics.

It all boils down to this…

Thornton points out that in the UK, sales figures for print copies of the Guardian and Observer newspapers typically are multiplied by three to take into account shared readership, based on circulation research. However, online readership statistics generally fail to account for online reading that happens beyond the news organization’s Web site…

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Ethan Zuckerman: Print Ad Prices Are “Fundamentally Irrational”

Advertising has long been the main source of revenue for mainstream journalism — but have advertisers ever really gotten their money’s worth? On Jan. 16, Ethan Zuckerman of Harvard’s Berkman Institute on Internet and Society examined the economics of print vs. online advertising and posed a very basic — but crucial — question that everyone in the news business probably should consider carefully: Is ad-supported journalism viable in a pay-for-performance age?

Here’s his line of reasoning. I think he makes a very going point….
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What Does Feedburner’s “Reach” Really Mean?

Feedburner
What’s the difference between feed subscribers and “reach?”

The popular service Feedburner, which manages and augments feeds (I use it for this blog), offers a wide range of measuring services to tell you how well you’re connecting with people via your feed.

One of its metrics, “Reach,” which is supposed to indicate active engagement by subscribers, was puzzling me. Today Feedburner tells me I have 2333 subscribers to the Feedburner version of the Contentious.com feed (including people who get my e-mail alerts via Feedblitz, which is generated from my Feedburner feed). However, my “reach” is only 206. What exactly does that mean?

I delved into it further. Bottom line: I have reason to suspect that, depending on your subscribers’ habits, Feedburner’s reach metric may be underestimating your level of audience engagement — perhaps drastically. Here’s why…

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