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Numbers Skewed


This week’s eWeek column is about on-line lobbying and copyright. I’m not so sure that the on-line efforts to lobby on copyright are going to go anywhere. It feels a little bit too much like preaching to the choir.
The story started because – like a lot of folks trying to quantify the web — I’ve been spending some time thinking about on-line numbers. And about distortion.
It starts with one of the first little things you have to cope with as a California-based reporter. When you talk about numbers in this state for almost anything, you usually talk about enormous sums. With more than 36 million people, the statistics for California are huge. Or they can be. So it’s easy to swayed by pure numbers. But that’s misleading.
A good, provocative website can also attract a lot of attention. Audience numbers can be enormous. So it’s easy to get swayed by size. After all, we are accustomed to the idea that a large audience indicates a groundswell of support for an idea, a TV program, a book.
The problem with web-related numbers is that they’re HUGE. For instance, Yahoo serves 3.6 billion pages a day, to a worldwide audience. So rather than compare on-line to off line (did you know it only takes 100,000 books sold to make a “best seller”? Sad, no?), it might be better to compare new online entities to the enormous ones that already exist.
That skews things, too, of course. But I think in contemplating the web’s reach – the potential for enormous numbers – it’s really is better to compare the elephant to the ant.

Share  Posted by Chris Nolan at 7:48 PM | Permalink

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