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Daily Caller Spins Its Web Traffic

The Daily Caller sent out a breathless press release Sunday night proclaiming that it had surpassed Politico in web traffic.

Well, it has — kind of and maybe just briefly.

Yes, for the last 30 days, The Daily Caller has edged out Politico by about 240,000 unique visitors. What they don’t mention is that the ranking changes at least day-to-day. For the month ending June 30, for example, Politico beat The Daily Caller by more than 400,000 unique visitors. Just a week earlier, July 7, Politico was ahead by almost 400,000 uniques and early this morning, the rankings showed The Daily Caller had already slipped a few spots on the list to 281 (Politico slipped a few as well, to 318). An update a few hours later showed a jump for The Daily Caller of about 13 spots. The point is, these rankings fluctuate — they’re relative based on how all the other sites Quantcast measured are doing.

And in the same 30-day period that The Daily Caller is so excited about, Politico’s visitors proved more engaged than theirs, seeing almost 14 million more pageviews with admittedly less visitors. Pageviews are a key metric tracked by advertisers, because they are often charged by the number of times their ad is viewed—not the number of unique users who see it. The Daily Caller also saw about a 1 million less visits overall than Politico during that time period.

Not satisfied with the level of spin they’ve already put on this, The Daily Caller also felt compelled to note in its press release that, “After record-breaking traffic numbers on election night, 2012, Politico’s web traffic fell dramatically and has yet to rise to pre-election levels, according to Quantcast charts.”

Except not by the charts we’re looking at.

Politico averaged roughly around 6 million unique visitors a month before its 2012 election spike, a number that it has hit several times already in 2013 according to Quantcast. June was its lowest month since the election, and it still had more than 6 million visitors across the web and mobile. And if you really want to get down to the specifics on the quality of web traffic each site is seeing, Quantcast says 44 percent of The Daily Caller‘s visitors are just passers by, users who only visit the site once per month, compared to just 31 percent for Politico.

Still, they stand by their claim. Daily Caller Spokeswomen Nicole Roeberg said in an email that, “The charts we included in our story show that overall, Politico’s traffic is lower after election night than it was before election night. Certain days may be exceptions to that rule, but Politico is trending down, which is also reflected in the Quantcast ranking.”

The Daily Caller also boasts that it reached 4 million unique users in just about two years while also noting that Politico “took over four years to reach the 4 million mark,” citing a report from The Wrap. Quantcast however, again shows a different picture with Politico at a rough average of 8 million uniques by late 2009—just about two years after its launch. The Wrap story doesn’t even quite say what The Daily Caller wants us to believe it says—it cites a third-party analytics firm that estimated Politico‘s traffic while noting the site’s editors had claimed a new high for numbers. It didn’t say what that new high was or when they’d made that claim.

This was a nice try for The Daily Caller, but when you look at some of what they’re saying closely, it falls flat. It might’ve worked had they simply noted the change in ranking and their actual higher uniques for the last 30 days, thanked their readers for helping them do well and moved on. But this is The Daily Caller, so they couldn’t just leave us with a dose of humility. Instead they put out a release, stirred the pot and and made claims about a competitor’s traffic that just don’t quite stand up. They even led with the story—a press release written by the business department—at the top of their front page this morning.

This isn’t the first time The Daily Caller has gone after Politico on traffic. It’s no secret the two publications are media foes. In December 2011, they wrote two stories (this one, and this one) that relied completely on the statistical analysis of a third-party tracking firm that estimates numbers—not directly measured data—to claim Politico was “rapidly losing readers.” Quantcast data, which is directly measured, did show an enormous drop in traffic for Politico around the time The Daily Caller‘s stories were published, but anyone with… eyes… could look at the chart and the enormous rebound that followed and suspect a data collection error. A shocker, The Daily Caller didn’t followup to explain their original story after reports showed Politico‘s traffic at normal levels a few months later.

Politico had no formal response to today’s claims by The Daily Caller. But Politico sources remarked to FishbowlDC, “The whole thing is pipsqueak. It’s just a spitball of no consequence.” They went on to say that Politico‘s growth is not based on fluctuating web traffic or chasing traffic trends but instead a “Washington influence strategy that is policy … based on revenue play.”

Roeberg, who apparently drank a vat of coffee this morning and sent us a whopping SEVEN emails on the topic, said in a followup email, “The bottom line is that we are smaller, younger and considerably less funded Internet startup. In a little over 3 years we have turned The Daily Caller into a profitable news site. We are one of the top 300 websites in the US, with more readers than Politico. People from all over the country, not just the small number in DC, turn to us for our objective reporting.”

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