There’s considerable ongoing debate about how best to measure web traffic, but all sides can probably agree that the Washington Redskins are doing it wrong. Via Dan Steinberg of the D.C. Sports Bog, the Redskins released a 13-page report with third-party monitoring services Meltwater and TVEyes about how many people watched or read coverage of their 2014 training camp in Richmond, Virginia, and they estimated that number as higher than the current population of Earth:
That report determined, among other things, that there were “7,845,460,401 unique visitors of print/online coverage of the 2014 Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Camp from July 24-Aug. 12.”
That’s a big number. To put it in perspective, that’s considerably more than the population of Earth, which the Census Bureau estimates at 7.26 billion. Apparently a lot of folks on Pluto were really interested in Colt McCoy’s progress.
What’s going on here? As with last season, the Redskins and their monitoring partners are using some strange definitions, definitions I can’t say I’ve seen other people use. “Unique viewers/visitors,” according to this report, provides “a unique and accurate count of the number of people visiting any content of a website in a given period of time, accounting for any possible duplication as a result of cookie deletion, cookie rejection or IP address changes.” “Hits,” according to this report, are “the amount of articles published on a search topic from any given source in the specified period of time.”
The team also explained that each article accrues the total unique visitor count of each site on which it appears. As an example, “if six articles on ESPN.com contain the specified search terms within the specified timeframe, the website’s unique visitor count (and accompanying value) is multiplied by six.” Fifteen Redskins articles on our site would credit the Richmond coverage with our millions of Washington Post unique visitors, times 15.
Counting search results and multiplying them by the total unique visitors of each site is weird enough, but there’s further oddness here. Michael Phillips of The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote about the economic value of coverage the report mentions and spoke to Meltwater officials, who said that the numbers included are “impressions,” but with a very different definition than the normal one:
According to the 2014 document, which was obtained by The Times-Dispatch, the firms estimated that Richmond received a “minimum total value” of $76.1 million in media coverage from the various TV, print, radio and online organizations that came to town to report on the camp.
The Redskins broke down the report by individual events. Their report noted that there were 58.1 million “unique visitors” to stories about a clinic for high school coaches that featured ESPN analyst Jon Gruden.
A spokeswoman for Meltwater said the number provided by the group is “impressions” and counts anytime a person is exposed to a news story about the event, including social media posts.
So, that might suggest that they’re counting not just people who actually click on stories, but also those who see them in their Twitter or Facebook feeds, and maybe even also those who follow the news feeds in question on Twitter or Facebook but didn’t actually ever see the posts about the stories. How all these “impressions” add up to $76 million is questionable, too. As Steinberg notes, this isn’t the first time the Redskins have played with the numbers, as they claimed 2.95 billion viewers of their training camp coverage in 2013. The numbers for 2014 are particularly bad, though. Either these are fudged, or there’s strong interest in the Redskins beyond Earth…