Techdirt 2018: The Stats.

from the closing-the-books-on-2018 dept

Every year a few days after New Year’s Day, we post some stats about traffic and comments from the previous year (we do it a few days after New Year’s to make sure that we actually have complete data, just in case something goes crazy in the last few days of the year — and also, because it takes a bit of time to go through all the data, and other work needs to be done as well). For reference, you can see our previous such posts: 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010. We still use Google Analytics for traffic data, mainly because it’s the easiest to use, even though it is increasingly not the most accurate, in part because many of our readers (*cough* including me) will often block Google Analytics from recording our traffic. As we’ve discussed in the past, most “traffic” numbers are complete garbage, a fact that most people like to ignore because it benefits themselves. However, here we are only using the traffic stats for comparative or relative purposes, rather than absolute purposes — which seems much more reasonable (i.e., we’ll note which stories got the most traffic, but not detail how much traffic, since we’re positive that number is inaccurate or misleading).

As per usual, we start out with a look at where visitors are coming from — and Google says we had visitors from 238 countries this year (up two from last year). As always, the majority of traffic comes from the US, this year right in the same arena as always, with 68% of our traffic originating from the US (last year we noted it had jumped up to 70% from the usual 67% and now it’s back at 68%). The UK remains in second place at 5.5% of traffic with Canada close behind at 4.7% of traffic (last year they were much closer at 5.9% and 5.8% respectively). India — which last year was in 5th place — jumped into the 4 spot with 2.9% of our traffic, and it jumped over Australia, followed by Germany, Finland, France, the Netherlands and Sweden. These are the same countries as last year in the top 10, but with Finland and the Netherlands switching spots. What’s interesting is that last year was Finland’s first year in our top 10 (it pushed out New Zealand, that has now dropped down to 16th place — not much big happening in New Zealand lately, apparently) and now it’s already moved up to the 7th spot. If folks are interested, between Sweden and New Zealand are the Philippines, Italy, Japan, Ireland and Singapore.

That makes it fairly easy to do our continental roundup, with the top countries in Asia being India, the Philippines, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. It is interesting to see China sending nearly 4% of the traffic from Asia (it’s 8th on the list of countries in Asia), as we’ve been told the site is frequently blocked in China. The top five in Europe all made it into the top 10 and the only noteworthy bit there is that access to the site from Russia keeps dropping. Two years ago Russia made up much more traffic, but over the past couple of years it’s kept dropping.

In South America, Brazil leads the way, once again. Peru leapfrogged over Argentina, Colombia and Chile to send the 2nd most traffic after being 5th last year. And those other three countries round out the top five. Two years ago we noted that nearly all of Techdirt’s traffic from Africa originated in South Africa, but last year, much more was coming from Nigeria and Kenya. Indeed, this year, South Africa provided 35% of traffic from Africa, with Nigeria at 21% and Kenya at 9%. Next up were Egypt at 6% and Ghana at 4%.

As per usual, it’s fun to take a look at the very bottom of the list, for the countries that send us a single visit per year (Christmas Island!) or perhaps 2 visits per year (North Korea!). I wouldn’t read too much into either of those… including any thought that anyone in either place actually visited Techdirt.

Basically every year we joke about how reader PaulT takes credit for Gibraltar being the country sending the longest duration visits, which has been consistently true since we started this… until now!. I know PaulT is still around, but maybe he’s started blocking Google too, because Gibraltar’s duration is now way down in the middle of the pack. Instead, the longest duration comes from… Nepal? Nepal! How about that. Of countries that actually send significant traffic to the site, India has the longest duration (Spain is similar as is Pakistan and New Zealand).

Chrome remains the most popular browser used to view the site — holding steady at 49% of all our traffic. Safari is second at 17% and Firefox with just 10%. Still a somewhat astounding 5% of traffic came from Internet Explorer and another 2% from Microsoft Edge (who uses those?!?). Mobile now represents 39% of our visits and, yes, we’ve finally inched over towards improving our mobile viewing experience. If you have not yet, check out our beta site to test it out (scroll up to the top of the page for a link to switch over to the beta site, or go into your preferences). It will greatly improve the mobile browsing experience. 35% of mobile visits come from an iPhone and another 9% from an iPad. The Android market is a lot more fragmented, obviously, but it’s dominated by various Samsung and Google Pixel models, all hovering at about the same levels of traffic.

For the past few years we’ve highlighted the following chart showing where our traffic comes from:

Unlike other sites, we’ve never focused on relying on others for our traffic by playing the “social media game” only to freak out when those properties change their algorithms and sites freak out as all their traffic disappears. So we’re always happy to see our largest source of traffic remain direct visits to the site at over 40%, and only 16% of our traffic coming from social (though, feel free to share our stuff on social media — we don’t mind, it’s just that we don’t play silly games ourselves to juice our traffic).

In terms of sites that do drive traffic to us, Reddit leads the way, followed by Twitter, Facebook and Quora. We also get some traffic from Smartnews, Fark and BoingBoing. In terms of search inbound (nearly all from Google) as per usual, much of that traffic is really “direct” traffic as it’s just someone typing “techdirt” into Google to get to our site. Oddly, the single largest query that lead people to our site that was unrelated to some version of “techdirt” was… “can you plagiarize yourself”. Apparently (I had no idea), Google links to a Techdirt article in the “Answerbox” on that one, and over 5,000 people did that search and clicked through. Huh. Sending nearly as much traffic is the query for “1 btc to afa”. It appears that the top search result on that query is an old 2013 post about someone buying 5000 Bitcoins for $27 and then forgetting about them before rediscovering them years later. I have no idea why Google thinks that’s a good link for converting Bitcoin prices to Afghani currency. Perhaps the Singularity isn’t quite upon us. The highest search result that makes sense (beyond the variations on Techdirt) is a search on FOSTA.

And, with that, we move onto the big lists:

Top Ten Stories, by unique pageviews, on Techdirt for 2018:

  1. E-Mails Show FCC Made Up DDOS Attack To Downplay The ‘John Oliver Effect’
  2. Game Studio Threatens Employees’ Jobs If They Don’t Write Positive Reviews Of Own Game, Then Steam Pulls Game Entirely
  3. Wikileaks Refused To Publish Manafort Family Texts, So Someone Else Did
  4. Cord Cutting Is The Obvious Result Of A 70% Spike In Cable TV Prices Since 2000
  5. Comcast & The Cable Industry Greets The New Year With A Flurry Of Price Increases
  6. Fifth Circuit Says No, You Fucking May Not Strip Search A Classful Of Female Students To Find $50
  7. AT&T Successfully Derails California’s Tough New Net Neutrality Law
  8. How The US Government Legally Stole Millions From Kim Dotcom
  9. New Verizon Ad Hopes To Make You Forget It Throttled Firefighters For No Reason
  10. Forget The GDPR, The EU’s New Copyright Proposal Will Be A Complete And Utter Disaster For The Internet

Pretty good mix of stories in there. The only “oddity” is the 2015 story about Kim Dotcom, but that’s been Dotcom’s “pinned tweet” for years, so whenever he’s in the news, that story suddenly gets a ton of traffic.

2018’s Top Ten Stories, by comment volume:

  1. Devin Nunes Releases Memo That Doesn’t Show The Surveillance Abuses He Hypocritically ‘Cares’ About 441 Comments
  2. Supposed ‘Free Speech’ Warrior Jordan Peterson Sues University Because Silly Professor Said Some Mean Things About Him 377 Comments
  3. Platforms, Speech And Truth: Policy, Policing And Impossible Choices 346 Comments
  4. Appeals Court Says Of Course Twitter Can Kick Racists Off Its Platform 324 Comments
  5. Conservatives: Stop Crying Wolf On Tech Bias Or No One Will Ever Take You Seriously 270 Comments
  6. Right On Time: Kentucky Governor Lays The Blame For Florida School Shooting At The Feet Of Video Games 268 Comments
  7. Internet Content Moderation Isn’t Politically Biased, It’s Just Impossible To Do Well At Scale 250 Comments
  8. Another Terrible Court Decision In Europe: Insulting A Religion Is Not Free Speech 239 Comments
  9. White House Potentially Exploring Executive Order On ‘Social Media Bias’ 230 Comments
  10. Research Paper Shows Militarized SWAT Teams Don’t Make Cops — Or The Public — Any Safer 216 Comments

So… once again, as we’ve seen in the past, there’s zero overlap between the most commented stories and the most trafficked stories. As we’ve noted many, many times, while comments may be one indicator of interest, it is not a great barometer of actual traffic on a post. My other thought is… huh, an awful lot of those stories that received a ton of comments have a common thread running through them. See if you can figure out what it is…

And now we get to the fun stuff (and my personal favorite part): the top rankings for our commenters. Though, I should note — as we mentioned earlier this year, that one of our top commenters, Roger Strong unfortunately passed away in May of this year. In 2017 he had been our third most prolific commenter. While he’s certainly been missed, he does make a well deserved final appearance in the lists below for having the 2nd most comments flagged as “funny” over the course of the year.

2018 Top Commenters, by comment volume:

  1. PaulT: 2394 comments
  2. That One Guy: 2152 comments
  3. Stephen T. Stone: 2010 comments
  4. Uriel-238: 1162 comments
  5. Anonymous Anonymous Coward: 1105 comments
  6. Ninja: 943 comments
  7. ECA: 749 comments
  8. That Anonymous Coward: 719 comments
  9. Toom1275: 718 comments
  10. Thad: 701 comments

To be honest, Thad’s 10th place finish is a bit unfair, as he commented for a while before signing up for an actual account mid-year. So, in all reality, he’s probably closer to the top of the list.. but rules are rules, and we’re only counting signed in commenters for this list. One other note is that PaulT dethroned That One Guy who had three years in a row at the top of the list (PaulT has always been near the top spot, but finally knocked That One Guy down a peg).

Top 10 Most Insightful Commenters, based on how many times they got the light bulb icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the lightbulb

  1. That One Guy: 462 comments (21%)
  2. Stephen T. Stone: 340 comments (17%)
  3. PaulT: 332 comments (14%)
  4. That Anonymous Coward: 119 comments (17%)
  5. Thad: 111 comments (16%)
  6. James Burkhardt: 109 comments (24%)
  7. Anonymous Anonymous Coward: 98 comments (9%)
  8. Ninja: 86 comments (9%)
  9. Mike Masnick: 85 comments (19%)
  10. Uriel-238: 76 comments (7%)

Congrats to James Burkhardt, who not only is a new entrant on this list, but who had the highest percentage of his comments judged to be insightful of anyone on the list. Keep it up, James. Great work. And of course, the trio of That One Guy, Stephen Stone and PaulT seem to be quite a strong trio of commenters in helping to give thorough, thoughtful and insightful comments over and over again. That One Guy topped this list for the fourth year in a row (by a wide margin each time). Impressive.

Top 10 Funniest Commenters, based on how many times they got the LOL icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the LOL icon

  1. Stephen T. Stone: 83 comments (4%)
  2. That One Guy: 38 comments (2%)
  3. Roger Strong: 34 comments (7%)
  4. Thad: 26 comments (4%)
  5. Ninja: 26 comments (3%)
  6. Toom1275: 23 comments (3%)
  7. Gary: 21 comments (4%)
  8. Mason Wheeler: 16 comments (5%)
  9. That Anonymous Coward: 13 comments (2%)
  10. Anonymous Anonymous Coward: 12 comments (1%)

Once again, it appears to be much, much, much more difficult to get the “funny” icon, so folks need to pick up their game on that one.

And with that, the 2018 books are closed. Let’s get moving with the 2019 comments…

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Comments on “Techdirt 2018: The Stats.”

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Henry L Choke says:

WAIT A SEC! The books were never open! Where's the TOTALS?

And where’s Bangladesh? Last year you bragged 27 page views per day from there.

And yet again, no mention of the hard-working undead who astro-turf the site. (I ought to put up the stats on those! But saving… At least ten "accounts" have gaps of over SIX years.)

Ben (profile) says:

Re: WAIT A SEC! The books were never open! Where's the TOTALS?

What is this obsession you have with account holders who mostly lurk? Who cares if it takes someone years between posts? Perhaps they signed up back in the day for something they really, really, really, really wanted to say, but then didn’t feel they needed to add anything for years more? Perhaps they retired from being a wage slave and finally had some spare time to read more and then ended up commenting once more?

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Don't open that door, behind it lurks madness

Personally I find it rather funny that one of their running delusions is to see a conspiracy when people aren’t as obsessed with the site as they are. Take a hiatus for a few weeks/months or even years only to come back, rather than haunting the site day in and day out? Obviously it’s a conspiracy!

Anonymous Coward says:

Fun stats! Though it’s a bit sad to see the near-total overlap between the “most comments” category and the “most insightful” and “most funny” lists. This implies that the best way to get these badges is by the shotgun approach of just posting tons of stuff and hoping you get lucky, rather than actually trying to be relevant. 🙁

Congrats to everyone who was on the last two lists but not the first one! You make TD awesome! And congrats to Mike particularly, who of course does the most to make TD awesome. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I thought it showed that the most prolific commenters also happened to be both insightful and funny.

I’ve been commenting on here for years, but never get on the lists because there’s rules.

I’ve never created an account because I appreciate Mike’s efforts to provide me with some level of anonymity on here. I have no issues with the awards going to those who give up some privacy for some recognition 🙂

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You may have noticed that few of us use real names, even when logged in. There is also an opportunity to post anonymously, even when logged in, you just need to check the box that says post this anonymously, of course those posts don’t get counted in the stats, rules you know.

Sometimes it helps to know who one is talking to, even if you don’t really know who they are. The login provides some continuity.

Thad (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You…get that the lists on this page are for the people with the most individual posts voted "funny" and "insightful", right? Of course somebody who posts more has a greater likelihood of getting more posts voted "funny" or "insightful".

If you want individual posts that got the most votes, that’s another article: Funniest/Most Insightful Comments Of The Year At Techdirt. Those honors went to, respectively:

An anon
An unregistered user
A registered user who’s not in the top 10 posters by volume
Me (one of the top 10 users by volume, but unregistered at the time I made the comment in question)
An anon
An anon
An anon

If you post more, then you’re likely to have more posts upvoted; that’s just the law of large numbers at work. But it doesn’t necessarily mean any single one of your posts is likelier to get upvoted than anybody else’s.

Speaking to a "shotgun approach of just posting tons of stuff and hoping you get lucky" — I don’t think any of us are posting here because we’re pandering for upvotes. Most of the regulars are here because we like it here; we like the conversation, and we’re generally sympatico with the rest of the community here.

Of course I write posts hoping that other people will find them interesting, and it’s nice to see tangible evidence that they do. But I’d post the same posts even if there were no scoring system in place.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Another good reason to post is just to start a conversation, about the topic in the article, though sometimes we get off track.

I was once remonstrated by the article writer because our ‘conversation’, though fascinating to the article writer, had nothing to do with the topic in the article. I think we were discussing…baking.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re:


What are you babbling about?

I’ve made the lists a couple of times, but its never because I just keep coughing up crap posts and praying. Sometimes when I can align the stars just right something I say resonates with people or puts a new spin on things they hadn’t considered. (see also: my expletive filled rant at the asshat who compared copyright & gay marriage that was a very different take than others had)

While I enjoy the light bulbs & lols, they aren’t my goal. My goal is to share my view of things & read others views to help complete my picture of things. Sometimes there are people who challenge my thinking & sometimes there are people who challenge reality and one can learn from all of these.

Tracking my history one can see that Twitter was a horrible decision on my part if I wanted to dominate the leaderboards. Much of my insanity leaks out there rather than here… feel bad for the staff here I follow them & often leave them shaking their heads & having to explain me to other followers who were unprepared for me.

I’ve also been bitten by the but I thought I was being really insightful not badging & a random throw away comment hitting insightful at the speed of light. You can’t plan for that or try and game it, so I just keep posting like always. Regular commenters can predict my responses to things (I’m a tiny bit transparent) and sometimes I shock them because sometimes I look at things sideways.

The site works because it isn’t an echo chamber of 1 idea & multiple view points have a chance (well unless you are posting from under a bridge). While many of us agree on big pictures (Pai is the industry’s lap dog & will leave office to get a super cushy well paying industry “job” once he’s done destroying the FCC) there is/are other areas inside the bigger picture where we disagree and can discuss them.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: Re:

As the new guy on the insightful list, the truth is that yes, the most prolific commentators, by pure chance have s greater chance. but it isn’t why they get that most insightful or funny votes.

My cause of my notability in this venue is likely shown by my other accomplishment, that nearly 1/4 of all my posts were considered insightful. I attribute this to my goal to engage everyone by assuming they are acting in good faith, and address their substantive arguements, and debate accordingly. Because that provides a counterpoint to the troll for those who might not understand the troll is a troll, not just now, but 5, 10 years from now when that article shows up in the saturday post.

I don’t comment for insightful votes, or the weekly/yearly accolades. I comment to contribute value to a conversation. The accolades are the result. I imagine the same is true for the prolific commenters. I just specialize in precision insightful posts.

James Burkhardt (profile) says:

Re: How About A New Commenter Category?

Amongst other things, the trolls refuse to use accounts anymore, the stat has little value, it presents little insight. Not sure what goal this would accomplish.

Moreover, the criterion used to flag is inherently subjective. What one finds trolling, spam, or what have you is not what others find similarly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: How About A New Commenter Category?

I think a big part of the problem is simply that it’s the only negative indicator that Techdirt provides. There’s no “downvote” button except the abuse flag, and, well… when all you have is a hammer…

(This concept ought to be intuitively obvious to Techdirt readers who are familiar with the abuse of DMCA takedowns for non-copyright-related purposes, simply because it’s there and it’s easy to get results with.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

The Poe Problem

Once again, it appears to be much, much, much more difficult to get the "funny" icon, so folks need to pick up their game on that one.

I’d attribute a lot of that to the ‘How am I supposed to compete with that?!’ problem, which crops up when trying to write a poe. When reality itself is insane, even otherwise funny jokes will get a sigh rather than a laugh because as crazy as the joke is people have seen even crazier that was absolutely true.

Ninja (profile) says:

It’s been like 2 years now that things took a hard nosedive. I mean, Trump in the US and other idiots like him elsewhere, constant attacks on hard fought rights, cronyism and corruption going on in plain sight with little to no punishment and people being general assholes without any shame. Funny comments followed the trend. Something that would be a bad joke a few years are now reality.

I’m not pessimistic, I do believe things will improve. But I also believe we humanity needs to go through this mess before it gets better. I don’t think things will get better in 2019 and in fact they may get worse in some places (like in my country). But I hope to be here next year and that funny comments list gets more 3 digit records. We need to laugh in hard times, it makes things a bit more tolerable.

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