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Points of View Message Board 6: November Numbers

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Nick Reynolds Nick Reynolds | 14:58 UK time, Friday, 27 March 2009

Some time ago I promised I'd share some statistics with you about web traffic to the Points Of View message boards. My apologies that it's taken so long, and I can understand your frustration as you've been waiting.

However, things are starting to happen now. Rowan has started a thread asking for your views on reactive moderation on the boards, and we should have some more news next week.

In the meantime I'm going to show you a few numbers. For the meeting I described in my previous post Rowan (currently hosting the Television POV board) kindly shared some statistics which she had put together so I've used these (for November of last year) as a starting point.

First a couple of caveats around the terminology.

There are two terms used below, PIs or Page impressions and "Unique Users".

A page impression is generated every time a user views a page.

points_of_view_logo.jpg

"Unique users" means the number of different IP addresses which have visited a particular page. Another way of putting it might be "visits from electronic devices which might have a person or persons attached". Six people could be using one computer, one person could have six devices with different IP addresses.

The weekly figures for all of the POV boards in November of last year were (I've rounded the numbers up or down to the nearest zero):

week starting                  unique users                 page impressions

2nd November                9500                               396000

9th November                 9600                               380000

16th November              10300                              407000

23rd November               9200                               380000

Splitting the "page impressions" down by the seperate parts of the boards:

"Television"

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November                283000               

9th November                 267000                           

16th November               295000                         

23rd November               277600

"Radio"

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November               31200

9th November                37300                          

16th November              29800                          

23rd November              28200

Points of View message board home page

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November               14300

9th November                14700                           

16th November              14500                         

23rd November              12700

The BBC

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November               5300

9th November               4600                    

16th November             5400             

23rd November             4600

"Online" (formerly "bbc.co.uk")

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November               5100               

9th November                5500                          

16th November              7200                         

23rd November              5200 

"Digital"

week starting                 page impressions

2nd November               2500   

9th November                2500                       

16th November              2200               

23rd November              2400

(Source: SageAnalytics)

As you can see:

- The Television board of the POV boards is far and away the most popular POV board taking around 60% of the traffic.

- The BBC, Online and Digital boards get very little traffic, around 3% each

Thoughts, comments, questions please below. And more news on the boards next week.

Nick Reynolds is editor, BBC Internet blog

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    As expected, TV dwarfs all the others. So the question is how does the POV board stand in the pecking order of traffic compared to the other BBC boards? What is the top 10? (we don't need monthly breakdowns, just a comparison.

  • Comment number 2.

    A very interesting set of figures, Nick. They certainly throw the dismissive and now infamous '50 or so regular users' phrase into sharp perspective. And what is one to make of these figures? Personally, coming from the distant arm of the spiral known as Radio 4, I view the '1500 unique users per day' as distinctly healthy. And yet Martin Belam takes an opposite view in his blog, calling the figure 'astonishingly low in view of the moderation cost'. Martin's bizarre linkage made me see this whole saga in a different light. I have made the point to Martin that the cost of moderation of any post-moderation board could be considered (reasonably, I hope) to be directly proportional to the number of posts, not the number of unique users per day. Futhermore, this level of cost for the current style of POV operation was chosen and dictated by the BBC itself. I therefore welcome the proposal to change to reactive moderation. This would seem to be a sensible way of saving a lot of money. I think if the BBC had been upfront about its primary issue as being moderation cost rather than hiding behind a diversionary smokescreen of 'blogs v messageboards', this whole debate could have been a lot clearer from day one. The BBC could have changed POV to reactive moderation a long time ago.

    As a reward for saving a lot of money, I suggest you let the adults on the POV boards stay up till midnight, like we do in radioland.

    (And, ahem, I note respondents to BBC blogs can post at any time of day or night...)

    Russ

  • Comment number 3.

    I moderate a small, insignificant backwater internet forum. It gets about 1500 views a day.

    And also, the page impressions and unique viewer numbers are *viewers* not users. If I was to read the site and not contribute, I wouldn't count as part of Martin's "50 or so regular users" figure as that appeared to be about posting.

    Personally, I think its higher than that, perhaps more around the hundred mark, but still, not exactly massive for a BBC board.

    It would be interesting to see a total for active users of course - perhaps number of posters that post on average once a week?

  • Comment number 4.

    Sorry having double checked the stats it's closer to 700 a day, got mixed up a bit there.

    However if some random board on the internet that nobody cares about can get 700 a day, then a "major" board of the the largest broadcaster in the world with a rather famous TV show to back it up getting 1500 is not healthy in the slightest. It is, frankly, rather pathetic.

    If you consider as well the concept of bounce rate, which is when someone goes to a site but instantly leaves, the internet average (according to a very quick google) is about 20-25% so let's lop a nice 300 off of that 1500 and it begins to look even worse.

  • Comment number 5.

    Nick,

    Many thanks for the heads-up on Rowan's POV thread on reactive moderation.

    It has also lead me to understand the error in navigating user profiles, which I'll post shortly on your New Look For BBC Blogs thread.

    On topic, I suspect that the POV threads would get much more traffic and be seen by more users if they were integrated with the main blogs and listed on the blog homepage, which is rather less prominent than before in the "new look" and which itself is in fairly urgent need of a makeover.

    Post or reactive moderation for all except CBeebies, please!

  • Comment number 6.

    The figures may be 'pathetic', however if you consider the extraordinary lengths users had to go to to find the Messageboards during that period, then it is to be expected.

    I posted on Dec 4, 2008 that the URL, bbc.co.uk/pov given-out by Jeremy Vine on the Points of View TV programme led to a list of links to recent episodes of POV, and so viewers were unable to post a message.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/mbpointsofview/F2131439?thread=6123422

    Nick Reynolds promised to "look into this".

    Several other contributors to the messageboards also highlighted the problem of navigating to the boards, assuming you even knew they existed.

    I again posted in January and Nick promised to "chase this again".

    Following the long-running debate on the Messagboards, regarding the future, or not, of those boards and how best to moderate and update them, Jem Stone, (executive producer in FM&T’s social media group), wrote, in reply to a messageboard user that there were various places to leave feedback about the BBC on the web, other than the BBC boards.

    Jem pointed-out 'you could leave feedback on your own blog', and went on to list some other places including Digital Spy, the Mail On Sunday, News of the World and The Guardian, as well as mentioning 'blogs, fan sites, politics forums and even sites like Twitter'.

    It therfore comes as no surprise to me, given the apparent lack of commitment to maintain, manage and promote the boards, that they attract so few users.

    As I and others have said before, most organisations would welcome the feedback from their customers; the BBC appear to not quite know how to handle it.

    john

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    In a partial response to comment #1, some messageboard areas display figures for the total number of posts. Those that do are:

    - Asian Network (4 boards): 240k
    - BBC7 (4 boards): 43k
    - iPlayer (8 boards): 20k
    - Heroes (3 boards): 59k
    - Ouch! (8 boards): 301k
    - Radio 3 (8 boards): 254k
    - Strictly Come Dancing (3 boards): 462k

    The current system records number of posts, so it would be fairly easy for Nick to find the figure for the POV area and others.

    From these figures, and the number of threads (listed 25 to each page) and the number of pages and their timespan, can be derived the number of posts per operational hour of any particular messageboard or messageboard area.

    I would assume the BBC has such management information readily available.

    Russ

  • Comment number 10.

    Further to my comment #9, there are also a number of messageboards not categorised as directly TV or radio giving the total numbers of posts:

    - Food (5 boards): 974k
    - Gardening (4 boards): 432k
    - History (4 boards): 489k
    - Learning English (2 boards): 381k
    - Lifestyle (1 board): 35k
    - Parenting (3 boards): 415k
    - Talk NI (6 boards): 443k
    - Talk Wales (4 boards): 129k
    - Wales Education (2 boards): 4k

    Russ

  • Comment number 11.

    @Russ, I agree it would be intersting to see the totals for the board. Of coruse it would also be important to divide these totals by the time the board has been online to see how many posts a day they get.

    Strictly is the stand out one there but then it did have that massive spike of usage following the John Sargant thing so perhaps best to ignore that.

  • Comment number 12.

    Hymagumba - interesting that you should cite Strictly, but there are other more interesting structural implications to explore. The Strictly boards were/are reactively moderated, which is light in terms of BBC moderation cost; as I was trying to point out in my comment #2, cost seems to be one of the major POV issues from the BBC's perspective. As a TV programme, the Strictly boards could have been placed (logically, I would say) within the POV subset. I am not a POV member, nor do I watch much television at all, but I get the impression that the POV operation has got stuck in some sort of timewarped impasse.

    Cost of moderation depends on the type - 'pre' and 'post' are expensive, whilst 'reactive' is comparatively inexpensive. Of the current messageboard areas, only Blast is pre-moderated. Asian Network, BBC iPlayer, Five Live, POV, Radio 2 and Religion are post-moderated. (This status for iPlayer, POV and Radio 2, and possibly Asian Network, seem somewhat absurd to me.) All the other messageboard areas are reactively moderated, as are all current BBC blogs as far as I know.

    What I find interesting, from a brief perusal at many messageboard areas, is the regular and intentional provision of a sub-board for the 'talk about anything you like' stuff, i.e. what is often termed 'off-topic' or 'out-of-scope' threads. Although I do not have figures for the Radio 2 messageboard area, one of its off-topic boards ('Flip Side') would seem to me to constitute a clear majority of the total posts for the whole Radio 2 area. I am not throwing stones at Radio 2 here - Radio 4 boards have historic, how shall I say, 'accomodations' in this respect. The leading flag-flyer for off-topicism is the generous acreage of Mustardland pasture. If one was being cynical, the total posts figures look 'good' for hosts who might need to justify themselves in a ratings-obsessed industry. I am not inclined to be overly critical of offtopicism, an off-topic sub-board is actually a useful structural device. Other messageboard areas are, at least in intention, on-topic only. I understand POV is one of these. Such things seem to depend on the personal inclination of the host, or as an historical carryover from when the area was first set up, and the internal people politics within the BBC. Not much logic about any of it, really, except for the important characteristic, from many users' point of view, of establishing a community. (And on that matter, I will leave it to your Madam Chairman to wax lyrical once again.)

    Numbers? Oh yes, we were talking about November Numbers weren't we.

    I'm surprised you POVers haven't done a few total posts sums for POV in this saga. It's a tedious exercise, but a few baseline facts do I feel help in putting some kind of concrete basis to what otherwise becomes merely a debate undertaken on the basis of emotion alone. A while ago, I did a 'posts per time' analysis on the now-demised Woman's Hour messageboard to counter the grossly misleading message being spread to the Guardian (apologies, I have lost the precise url) that it had been been closed 'because it was low traffic'. WHMB wasn't low traffic at all. In its last 4 months of operation, there was an average of 15 posts per hour. WHMB wasn't closed down because it was low traffic, it was closed down because the programme host couldn't cope with the high level of traffic. Media spin can be a pernicious distorter of reality.

    But let's not take the WHMB case as illustrative of POV. Women's Hour is a single programme - POV is a whole shedload. The big Radio 4 issue is about hosting, not numbers. POV doesn't have a current hosting problem as I see it from an outsider's point of view.

    POV has a strange problem concerning its numbers, its nature, and its structure.

    The 1500 unique POV users per day has been described variously here and elsewhere as 'distinctly healthy', 'astonishingly low', 'not exactly a massive amount' and 'frankly, rather pathetic'. Hmmmm. In his blog, which which I have been corresponding, one of Martin Belam's two central reasons for finding the current POV situation unsatisfactory is that the POV board 'does not represent good value for money for the 25 million Licence Fee payers who don't use it'. In one sense, I find this rationale specious. Firstly, the primary cost is because of the post-moderation; if the majority of the TV audience were to engage on POV, can you imagine the cost of post-moderating (or even reactively moderating) that? I don't think the BBC would be very happy at all, and its servers would be roast silicon in a millisecond. It's a mad proposition, and one wishing for a madder outcome. Secondly, no one is forcing everyone or even a majority of the actual TV audience to engage on BBC messageboards or blogs. My take on that part of Belam's argument is that it betrays a media obsession with ratings, and underline's the instinctive discomfort of any broadcaster mustering enough energy to engage in and relate to the antithesis of broadcasting.

    Martin Belam's other central reason is that there are 'plenty of places on the web where users can chit-chat on messageboards about the general state of television'. Not being much of a TV watcher, I cannot comment on this, and will leave POV members to express their view. What I would say though is, why pick on POV in particular to promote such a proposition? Is there something in Martin's 'general state of' that is at the root of his disquiet? Something about the quality of postings, perhaps, and nothing at all to do with quantity? Now look at those healthy posting numbers for Food, Gardening, Learning English, History and Parenting in my message #10. I don't know those places, but the numbers feel like their denizens are having some sort of 'quality time' there. Some of these areas are not supported by any BBC programming, and others like Gardening and Food have only light structural links to specific BBC programmes. Are there not plenty of places on the web to discuss these subjects? Of course there are. So why pick on POV, an area that constitutes the most important part of BBC's output and which consumes the vast majority of its budget? Something, and its a fundamental something, doesn't add up here, does it?

    The once high-profile boards that have gone are Arts, Books, Film, Games, Football (and Today of course, but that has transmuted into multitudinous blog mode). Undoubtedly, these are areas where the wider net provides 'plenty of places to go'. But is the BBC about to throw in the towel on its flagship mass product because it is struggling to find a way of adding value useful for both the BBC and its audience? I can't quite believe that.

    Russ

  • Comment number 13.

    Apologies - my mention of 'Football' in the last para of my comment #12 was probably misleading. I understand that 5Live's 606 boards are thriving, and that my reference should have been to 'Fantasy Football'.

    Russ

  • Comment number 14.

    Sorry Nick Reynolds don't understand your phrase 'reactively moderation' at the beginning of this blog as it doesn't make sense. Do you mean reactive moderation or moderating reactively possibly?

  • Comment number 15.

    michaelchitty - this was a typo which I have now corrected. Thanks.
    russ makes a number of points which it might be better to respond to in a longer blog post, but for now:
    1. The cost of the POV boards has never been much of an issue for me, and it certainly isn't driving our attempts to improve the boards. The key point all the way along has been about hosting i.e. how do we get better hosting for the boards and who is going to do it. Reactive moderation isn't necessarily less expensive either - it rather depends on how the community behaves.
    2. It's never been about blogs v message boards as I've said many times.
    3. We are not about to "throw in the towel" - but you're right that another key question, apart from hosting is how can these boards add more value?
    4. Number of postings is not the same as number of people using a board.

  • Comment number 16.

    Rowan has now started a thread announcing the changes.

  • Comment number 17.

    Apologies -- here's the correct link for Rowan's post.

  • Comment number 18.

    In my message #12, my statement of understanding that all BBC blogs are reactively moderated is not correct. I now understand some blogs are pre-moderated.

    Russ

  • Comment number 19.

    Russ

    Excellent points. I said that I wouldn't comment on Nick's blogs again, BUT, having read your postings, I felt I must congratulate you on well-reasoned and well-presented arguments.

    And, I loved your analogy on Martin's blog, to the Newspaper circulation and Letters Page. Simple, but, killer.

  • Comment number 20.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 21.

    "What I find interesting, from a brief perusal at many messageboard areas, is the regular and intentional provision of a sub-board for the 'talk about anything you like' stuff, i.e. what is often termed 'off-topic' or 'out-of-scope' threads. Although I do not have figures for the Radio 2 messageboard area, one of its off-topic boards ('Flip Side') would seem to me to constitute a clear majority of the total posts for the whole Radio 2 area. I am not throwing stones at Radio 2 here - Radio 4 boards have historic, how shall I say, 'accomodations' in this respect. The leading flag-flyer for off-topicism is the generous acreage of Mustardland pasture. If one was being cynical, the total posts figures look 'good' for hosts who might need to justify themselves in a ratings-obsessed industry. I am not inclined to be overly critical of offtopicism, an off-topic sub-board is actually a useful structural device. Other messageboard areas are, at least in intention, on-topic only. I understand POV is one of these. Such things seem to depend on the personal inclination of the host, or as an historical carryover from when the area was first set up, and the internal people politics within the BBC. Not much logic about any of it, really, except for the important characteristic, from many users' point of view, of establishing a community."

    Well said Russ.

  • Comment number 22.

    "And, I loved your analogy on Martin's blog, to the Newspaper circulation and Letters Page. Simple, but, killer."


    Not really, niclaramartin. The space allocated to letters in the newspaper represents a fraction of those that they receive, and they are carefully selected, edited and sub-edited to fit into a finite bit of space allocated daily in print. Everybody writing to a newspaper knows that there is a slim chance of publication.

    By contrast, everyone submitting to a messageboard or blog *expects* their contribution to appear on the site, and the number of contributions is only limited by database capacity and moderation costs.

    It is a simple analogy, yes, but one that I think is rather between apples and oranges ;-)

    Russ, though, it must be said, has been making some very good points in the thread over on my site.
  • Comment number 23.

    It is a great shame that so much these days is governed by "ratings". That concept has done much to narrow the choice. That applies not only to what is offered on the numerous TV channels these days, but also to the POV messageboard.

    It was a place to turn to to discuss and ask for help with regards to many aspects of the BBC. A single link to bookmark, easy to find.

    Although I appreciate what you and Rowan have said about tuning the POV boards more to link with the BBC One POV programme and hope that despite much has been lost, that what remains will get noticed and that concerns voiced by many will be noticed at last. For example overloud background music, sick making jump cut, wobbly camera work etc

  • Comment number 24.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

 

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