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Dateline: 20 January 2000 Early Edition
Read The Previous Edition

And NZ's Most Popular Website Is...
That's a question I'm asked very regularly -- but I'm afraid that neither I, nor anyone else I know of, can provide an accurate and verifiable answer.

The chances are that XTRA's front page would win -- but then again -- they do have the advantage of being an ISP and having the largest user-base of anyone in the business. By configuring their startup disk and customised browser so that www.xtra.co.nz becomes the default (and in many causes unalterable) starting point for its customers each time they log on, XTRA can guarantee that its front page will be thrashed all day long.

However, being the most often loaded does not, in my book, mean a site is necessarily the most "popular." To me, popularity implies a choice freely made -- which again leads me to ask -- what is NZ's most popular website?

I suspect that high on the list are "utility" sites such as www.yellowpages.co.nz, www.whitepages.co.nz, along with the family of TVNZ operated websites and maybe www.trade-exchange.co.nz.

Sam, over at www.trademe.co.nz has told me of his very respectable levels of traffic -- but therein lies another problem... does popular just mean busy or does it mean appealing to a large number of people?

Which is more popular... a site that gets the same people coming back several times a day or a site that gets a larger number of users visiting less frequently?

Aardvark's single daily page is loaded around 60,000 times a month -- but it's generally the same 2,000-3,000 people who come back five days a week creating this number. Is Aardvark more popular or less popular therefore than a site which publishes once a month but gets 50,000 individual visitors during that same period?

And, ultimately, why is it important to know which sites are most popular?

The usual answer is that it's important information for advertisers. They tell me that everyone wants to advertise on the most popular sites. But, given that most Web-based advertising is charged for on a "per view" basis -- one must ask why?

If an advertiser is paying 10 cents everytime someone sees their advertisement, what difference does it make whether their $1,000 worth of advertising banners appears on a site that has 1,000 visitors a day or one that has 10,000? Okay, in the first case their ad-budget will last 10 days, in the second it will be consumed within 24-hours -- but does it make the message any more or less effective?

Quite honestly, I think this "most popular" thing is all about prestige and image. Of course everyone wants to be the most popular (or at least more popular than their competition).

Unfortunately none of this solves the problems of how to define and measure popularity. Does anyone have any answers? -- more importantly, does it really matter?

Why don't you tell me?


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