Pimping for Clicks [7:52 am]
The magazine business is going through serious heartache in the face of the Google advertising juggernaut. Here’s what happens when traffic becomes the metric of performance for a content provider: At Forbes.com, Lots of Glitter but Maybe Not So Many Visitors
Its own ads proclaim that â€œmore people get their business news from Forbes.com than any other source in the world,â€ saying that its sites drew about 15 million unique visitors in a single month earlier this year. It was a well-heeled crowd, according to Forbes.com, which says that the average household income of its users is $149,601.
Forbesâ€™s Web prowess is a big reason Elevation Partners, a private equity firm that counts Bono of U2 as a managing director, agreed on Aug. 4 to buy a minority stake in Forbesâ€™s publishing business. â€œForbes has already won the first roundâ€ in the battle for Internet supremacy, an Elevation founder, Roger McNamee, said then.
But a closer look at the numbers raises questions about Forbes.comâ€™s industry-leading success. For its claim of a worldwide audience of nearly 15.3 million, it has been citing February data from comScore Media Metrix, one of the two leading providers of third-party Web traffic data.
[...] Forbes.com is hardly the only site to present traffic figures that are higher than those reported by the third-party companies. And because they rely on sampling and extrapolation, even the independent companies often present vastly different results for the same site.
Faith in such data has also suffered as a result of recent restatements by the large Web-tracking businesses. [...]
[...] The debate is more than just a numbers game. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, the Forbes site attracted almost $55 million in revenue in 2005, the most among business publications, including The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek and the business pages of The New York Times.
Some competitors argue that Forbes.comâ€™s popularity derives in part from racy, provocative or wealth-obsessed lifestyle features that have little to do with traditional business news â€” examples from this year include â€œThe Hottest Billionaire Heiresses,â€ â€œTop Topless Beachesâ€ and â€œAmericaâ€™s Drunkest Cities.â€ Those kinds of articles, unlikely to appear in Forbes magazine, may be a small fraction of those that Forbes.com posts each day, but they are often featured on mass-market Web portals.
Most financial publications cover the softer side of money, hoping to cast a wide net and attract different types of advertisers. And like Forbes.com, many Web sites link up with portals to increase their traffic. Forbes.com may simply do these things better, or more aggressively, than most.
[...] Still, some competitors say that while eye-catching lifestyle stories may attract lots of readers, those readers are more transient and less likely to be the kind of high-powered professionals that advertisers pay more to reach.