At a presentation last night to the assembled journalists (and a few randoms like me) at the Knight New Media Center online politics seminar, Politico.com editor Bill Nichols mentioned in passing that in March, the Politico site had six million page-views and two million unique visitors. That ratio really jumped out at me, since for most sites, the average reader hits two-ish pages per visit sometimes painfully less, and for sites like YouTube on which people browse extensively, significantly more.
Doing a little math, Politico’s averaging three page-views per UNIQUE VISITOR for the entire month in other words, their average reader only looked at three pages over the course of the whole month of March. Not the healthiest of ratios! Why does this matter? One classic measure of a site’s long-term success is its “stickiness” the extent to which it keeps people on the site for long periods and also keeps them coming back for more. So far, at least in terms of traffic, Politico’s not looking so sticky.
By comparison, over the course of March, e.politics averaged about seven page-views per unique visitor (though from a few orders of magnitude fewer visitors…), and this is a site on which many stories can be read fully on the front page and so might yield only one page-view from several “article-views.” Other sites with a loyal readership (thanks, kids!) probably show a similar pattern.
Now, take this all with a grain of salt, since it’s hard to make any solid conclusions without looking at Politico’s traffic numbers in more detail. For instance, they may have a hard core of 20,000 or 50,000 readers who come back over and over, and a much larger pool of people who hit the site once from an outside link and then never show up again. In that case, they’re probably doing just fine, since they’re building a cadre of regular readers who’ll keep coming back. And when I asked Bill about it, he said that the Politico folks weren’t too worried about the traffic ratio, since they’re still a relatively new site and were also taking steps to provide enticements to keep readers on the site longer and more often. If I were those guys, I’d make that a priority. In its short life, Politico’s generated quite a splash and stirred up more than its share of discussion, but all that’s no good if the readers don’t keep coming back.
Update: Politico.com’s publisher responds to this and to the later article on niche vs. mass audiences. Read his note.