Like my old-media colleague Mark Evans, I’m skeptical of the somewhat boosterish (to put it mildly) headlines about the growth of MySpace, and how it is now supposedly a larger Internet property than Yahoo, according to figures from Internet traffic-tracking firm Hitwise. And yet, the numbers from Comscore/Media Metrix and Nielsen/NetRatings don’t show anything like that — at least not when it comes to unique visitors.

According to a statement from Hitwise about methodology, the company uses a “network-centric” measuring process, in which traffic data is collected directly from ISPs using the company’s proprietary software. Other tracking services such as Comscore and Nielsen measure traffic based on software that users install (Alexa uses this method as well), phone surveys and/or through software trackers installed at websites directly. Naturally, Hitwise says its way is better.

The Hitwise release about MySpace (which was just for the first two weeks of July) didn’t give specific numbers for the social-networking service. Instead, it said that MySpace’s “market share of visits” was higher than Yahoo’s at 4.46 per cent. It’s not clear what that phrase refers to, but it appears to be a lot closer to raw hits than it is to unique visitors. Part of the problem seems to be that Hitwise only tracked Yahoo’s email domain, and left out its search and portal properties. According to Yahoo, it had 129 million unique visitors in June (for Yahoo’s search, email and web properties), and MySpace had 52 million.

I hate to rehash something that I thought we had all hoisted aboard during the first Web bubble, but raw traffic is a crappy measure of anything (and MySpace.com has been criticized for having a design that boosts page-hit counts). That’s why unique visitors and other metrics get used more often. Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop newspapers — and blogs, unfortunately — from trumpeting the “XYZ Corp. is the biggest!” headlines whenever there’s a slow news day.

For an interesting look at the differences between Hitwise numbers and those from ComScore/Media Metrix and Nielsen/Net Ratings, check out this comment from Flickr founder Stewart Butterfield on a recent post at Paul Kedrosky’s blog.

About the author

Mathew 2414 posts

I'm a Toronto-based former senior writer with Gigaom and my favorite things to write about are social technology, media and the evolution of online behavior

7 Responses to “MySpace might be bigger — or not”
  1. in such a short period of time. Another interesting element to the “who’s the most popular kid in class discussion is Youth Trend’s research suggesting the most popular site with youth is….Google. For some other takes on the ranking issue, check outMathew Ingram and Jeff Clavier. Another intriguing issue about MySpace is what its popularity means as far as how advertisers approach social networking sites. Does this mean there will be a huge shift of marketing dollars to the social networking market, which

  2. in such a short period of time. Another interesting element to the “who’s the most popular kid in class discussion is Youth Trend’s research suggesting the most popular site with youth is….Google. For some other takes on the ranking issue, check outMathew Ingram and Jeff Clavier. Another intriguing issue about MySpace is what its popularity means as far as how advertisers approach social networking sites. Does this mean there will be a huge shift of marketing dollars to the social networking market, which

  3. Just when you thought you were understanding the new, participatory Web, everything is changing again. From a thought-provoking post today by chartreuese: The era of the geeks is coming to an end…. Hate MySpace? Too bad. It may not really be bigger than Yahoo but it doesn’t matter. Blogs as you know them? Paleeze. Words are for suckers like me. The Kids are already working on special effects. Read the whole thing. Posted by The 463: Inside Tech Policy at 07:02 PM in

  4. MySpace, America’s Number One…

    MySpace is now the most popular site in the US – last week it overtook Google Search and Yahoo Mail as America’s most visited website, according to Hitwise. MySpace had 4.46% of US visits for the week ending July 8th. What’s more, MySp…

  5. Comscore = Absolute unique visitors per month.

    hitwise = Average daily VISITORS

    Comscore = Advertising breath, Hitwise = Actual usage

  6. […] Hate MySpace? Too bad. It may not really be bigger than Yahoo but it doesn’t matter. […]

  7. […] Hey, MySpace is great and everything — although it got its start as a spam and malware-pusher, according to Trent Lepinski’s recent opus — and we all know that it is the largest Internet site by far (although there’s some doubt about that too) and that it plans to revolutionize the music business and likely many other things as well. But to say that the company can do just about anything that any Web 2.0 company does, because they all piggyback on MySpace? That’s a bit rich. […]

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