Updated 12 July 2011: See also Building web usage for pubmedia - challenge for TV and music radio.
Available web statistics tend to overstate the broadcast equivalent of cume and understate the broadcast equivalent of average usage (and therefore time spent using). If broadcast usage was counted like web usage, you would be counted as two in your cume if you tuned in on two radios or TVs in a given rating period. Each browser you use to access the same web site counts as a “unique.” The disappointing web performance we see for too many public media web sites is even more so in reality.
I’d suggest we’re looking at the wrong thing anyway. Inbound links (also called backlinks) drive traffic because search engine algorithms consider them a sign of respect. Given the large proportion of your traffic that comes from search engines, strategies that encourage backlinks will move your digital performance in the right direction.
This scatter chart comes from public data I looked at for the top 52 television markets – New York through New Orleans – for both radio and television (some markets are missing). The two dots in the upper left side are for NPR and PBS. In general, it shows that the higher number of sites linking in, the higher you are (lower number) in traffic ranks (both are power curves, hence the log-log scaling). The metrics are from an Amazon subsidiary called Alexa, which relies on data generated from installed browser toolbars and, as of 2008, from other unspecified sources. It’s rankings get some criticisms, but for our purposes it displays the relationship.
The following table shows organizations having more than 1,000 inbound links:
PBS | 612 | 45,831 | 0.40
NPR | 230 | 41,797 | 0.36
WNYC | 6,606 | 4,017 | 0.53
KCRW | 4,977 | 2,706 |0.48
KQED | 8,646 | 2,655 | 1.05
WNET | 37,350 | 1,935 | 0.26
WAMU | 36,986 | 1,586 | 0.66
WGBH | 16,712 | 1,349 | 0.55
WBUR | 7,827 | 1,338 | 0.54
KPBS | 25,604 | 1,266 | 1.16
WHYY | 47,901 | 1,200 | 0.40
WBEZ | 13,492 | 1,086 | 0.31
KUOW | 59,389 1,044 | 0.56
Left to right, the first number is Alexa Traffic Rank, the second is inbound links, and the third is links per 1,000 TV households. Note that all of these top-ranked stations are either radio or joint licensees – content and relationships for radio stations carrying the NPR news magazines definitely drive backlinks. Excluding NPR and PBS, the median rank = 176,654, median backlinks = 255, and median backlinks per 000 = 0.19.
- Having multiple URLs lowers your “Google respect.” A broadcaster in one market in the teens has one URL for radio, one for TV, and one corporate. In the aggregate, it has a semi-respectable 0.43 backlinks per 000 TVHH, but radio alone (its best performer) has 0.24, TV 0.12 and the corporate brand 0.07. Because these backlinks are distributed among three URLs, it won't get the benefit of the aggregate number.
- Also – though this needs some more data – sites using “old school” station-dot-org URLs seem have better backlink performance than those with longer corporate brands. One stand-alone radio station in a market in the twenties has a puny 36 inbound links at its corporate ID URL, but nearly five times that at the station-dot-org URL it no longer uses (it redirects to the main ID).
- Lastly, classical music radio stations (I looked at WFMT, KING, KUSC, WGUC and WRR) do significantly worse than stations with the NPR news magazines. This may be in part due to the source of data that Alexa uses, or perhaps classical demos just don't use the web. More on this in a later post.
--Dennis (post updated 11 July 2011)