Audience numbers are garbage

Traffic Is Fake, Audience Numbers Are Garbage, And Nobody Knows How Many People See Anything 

I’m not sure there’s much more to say to that headline.  I know it’s something every blogger thinks about.  And if you’re a business owner or consultant relying on content marketing to drum up new business, then it’s also a concern.  What do your numbers actually mean?

Leigh Beadon of Techdirt writes:

How many living, breathing human beings really read Techdirt? The truth — the most basic, rarely-spoken truth — is that we have no earthly idea. With very few exceptions, no media property big or small, new or old, online or off, can truly tell you how big its audience is. They may have never thought about it that way — after all, we all get as close as we can to what we think is a reasonably accurate estimation, though we have no way of confirming that — but all these numbers are actually good for (maybe) is relative comparisons. What does it really mean when someone says “a million people” saw something? Or ten or a hundred million? I don’t know, and neither do you.

It’s easy to be seduced by a big number of followers. But as Beadon points out in his post, the number is too mysterious to mean much apart from as a means of comparison.  For example, with your site traffic you can compare one day against another in terms of engagement.  But unless you have a paywall like Netflix or Amazon, the numbers don’t directly translate monetarily.

Why does this matter?
I think it matters because we’re all trying to figure out if the return on our time is worth the effort of producing more and more content with the hopes that the content will drive traffic to our websites and that that traffic will convert to actual sales.

Your engagement figures are a more useful metrics, but I would further qualify that engagement as the number of people with whom you exchange words with.  ‘Likes’ and ‘hearts’ make you feel good, but as any good salesperson knows, it’s hard to close a sale without having a conversation.

Final words…

If you’ve adopted a content marketing strategy then you

 …should stop worrying about the supposed size of their audience, and focus on making the content they want to make.