Counting Web Users is awkwardly difficult; Traffic Slump at CNet

CNet suddenly seem to be getting lot of attention,  though for the wrong reasons - traffic slump, options scandal and CEO resignation. CNet traffic by page views dropped 50% year-over-year for all CNET properties in the third quarter. Google's share of U.S. searches in August is pegged at 44%, 50% and 60%, by three different web traffic measurement companies.

CNet Traffic Facts & Figures:

  • Citing comScore data, Jefferies analyst suggests that CNet traffic by page views dropped 50% year-over-year for all CNET properties in the third quarter. Page views fell 54% versus last year at CNET.com, 21% at Gamespot and 30% at ZDNet. Page views at Webshots dropped 69%.
  • TechCrunch got hold of page views numbers from comScore and says that September 2006 traffic for all CNET properties was 616 million page views, compared to 1.37 billion page views in September 2005, substantiating the over 50% y/y traffic decline. ZDNET fell to 8 million from 12 million page views a year ago while CNET reviews went down to 24 million from 31 million page views. 
  • CNet traffic slump doesn't seem to a new phenomenon, as even an year ago, MarketWatch says, citing comScore data, that traffic to CNet properties declined 5% in June 2006. The traffic to ZDNet.com fell 17% while traffic to Mysimon fell 7%. 

But how reliable are the web traffic numbers, questions IBD in a recent article. Some popular examples:

  • comScore data says Google has 44% share of U.S. online searches in August while Nielsen/NetRatings pegs it at 50% and Hitwise reports it 60%. 
  • Nielsen data suggests Facebook had 8.85 million unique visitors in August while comScore counted 14.8 million. That's a BIG 6 million or roughly 40% difference! 
  • Hitwise reports  the most popular Web site on the Internet in August was MySpace.com, with a 4.9% share of all Web site visits. comScore ranks MySpace No. 6 in terms of unique visitors.

Hopefully there will be better web traffic numbers as  Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and U.S. advertisers who spent almost $7.9B in the first 6 months of the year, step in to demand better audited traffic numbers. IAB says better measurements will bring more ad dollars to the Web.

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