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The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik Abuses Web Stats For Fun and Profit

Cathy Seipp readers — see additional information in Update 2 at the bottom of this post.

Patterico points us to Independent Sources nemisis Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times, who uses precisely two data points to prove to his satisfaction that Hugh Hewitt’s audience is declining — by 20% in two months, according to his calculation. Hiltzik’s theory? It’s Hewitt’s

… peculiar brand of reactionary conservatism has become increasingly marginalized on the fringes of American political life. Perhaps the cluttered ugliness of his site design turns people off. Maybe it’s his sedulous devotion, like a sucking remora fish, to the imploding George W. Bush. Maybe it’s his otiose prose.

Of course, any time Hiltzik gets near a statistic, we pay attention, since he serially abuses them. And it looks like that’s what’s happening here. Here is a traffic graph of HughHewitt.com from Alexa*:

200604161431

(see it live here)

I defy anyone to see a 20% decline in this data. Alexa summarizes the chart as a 2% increase in HughHewitt.com’s average reach over the last three months (to 124 per million). His traffic rank remains essentially unchanged as well (3 month change of -415 to his current rank of 18,957).

In short — Hiltzik’s premise doesn’t hold water.

Is Hiltzik willing to submit his own Golden State Blog as a proxy for ultra-liberalism? Not exactly. In a response to Patterico’s comment “Where’s your Site Meter?,” Hiltzik replied

… my “site meter” is the Audit Bureau of Circulation, which says we sell something in the neighborhood of 800-900,000 papers every weekday.

Hiltzik ain’t telling us. But we can make some guesses. Alexa does not break out goldenstateblog.latimes.com from the main latimes.com data, but it does tell us

Where do people go on latimes.com?

* latimes.com – 89%
* theenvelope.latimes.com – 6%
* games.latimes.com – 1%
* lakersblog.latimes.com – 1%
* email.latimes.com – 1%
* stylescenes.latimes.com – 1%
* Other websites – 1%

Note who’s missing? 1% of the LA Times’ traffic goes to “other,” which is where Hiltzik is lumped. The LA Times has a daily reach of 2,770 per million; the “other” 1% would be 28 per million. Let’s double it since some main site visitors will visit the “other” group in their 2.5 page views per visit — so 56 out of 1 million internet users see the “other” LA Times sites on a normal day. If Hiltzik gets half — a giant stretch — his reach of 28 is a fraction of Hewitt’s 124. So in the blog-as-proxy-for-political-ideology argument, Hiltzik’s on the losing side.

Unfortunately, we can’t see Hiltzik’s trend over time. But it’s easy to add Site Meter, or Statcounter. How about it, Michael?


Update: Armed Liberal at Winds of Change: “(Hiltzik) manages, I think to combine the worst of both – the overweening arrogance of the MSM and the casual, fact-challenged style of much blogging.”


Update 2: If you want to see the post that got Patterico curious about Hiltzik’s pseudonymous comments, it’s here. Hiltzik posted as nofanofcablecos two days before he wrote a column on the topic. We later admitted we were probably wrong to ID him, but it got Patterico thinking about comments on his own blog and elsewhere. A summary of our Hiltzik coverage is here. And Hiltzik has been annoying us for quite some time — see all our posts here.


* If you’re unfamiliar with Alexa, it records site visits by users who’ve loaded the Alexa toolbar in their browser. The sample may be somewhat more geeky than the ordinary internet user, but the methodology also gets around some of the problems of non-cookied measurement tools like SiteMeter.

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9 Responses to “The Los Angeles Times’ Michael Hiltzik Abuses Web Stats For Fun and Profit”

  1. 1
    Patterico’s Pontifications » Hiltzik Mocks Hewitt’s Site Meter Says:

    [...] hat not every reader of the L.A. Times reads him. UPDATE: Independent Sources effectively debunks Hiltzik’s post [...]

  2. 2
    Patterico Says:

    Nicely done.

  3. 3
    Winds of Change.NET Says:

    and validate (or, in this case, invalidate) our claims. Here’s the actual link to Hugh’s Site Meter. Go ahead and click through and let me know if you see a secular decline. Patterico hammered Hiltzik for misrepresenting the numbers (amplified byIndependent Source’s look at Hugh’s Alexa ratings, which go back further than his Sitemeter numbers do. I want to pile on, and suggest that while I’ve looked at some of Patrick’s more aggressive claims about Hiltzik’s intellectual honesty as a bit over the top, I was

  4. 4
    chad Says:

    I agree nicely done, but unfortunately it will probably be an unproductive effort. I have found that it doesn’t really matter how much evidence you show people like Mr. Hitzak, they can always justify theiir thought process. Check out Joel Connelly in the Seattle Times sometimes for our equivalent.

  5. 5
    Patterico’s Pontifications » Is Hiltzik Censoring Critical Comments (Again)? Help Me Find Out! Says:

    [...] osting this again. Independent Sources effectively debunks the factual premise of this post here: http://independentsources.com/2006/04/16/the-los-angeles-times-michael-hiltzik-abuses-web-stats-for-fun-and-profit Looks like there has been some che [...]

  6. 6
    The Discerning Texan Says:

    and validate (or, in this case, invalidate) our claims. Here’s the actual link to Hugh’s Site Meter. Go ahead and click through and let me know if you see a secular decline. Patterico hammered Hiltzik for misrepresenting the numbers (amplified byIndependent Source’s look at Hugh’s Alexa ratings, which go back further than his Sitemeter numbers do. I want to pile on, and suggest that while I’ve looked at some of Patrick’s more aggressive claims about Hiltzik’s intellectual honesty as a bit over the top, I was

  7. 7
    LA Observed: Tuesday, 4,18.06 Says:

    [...] ations to Jan. 23. ♦ LAT watchers on the right: Blogger Independent Sources checks up on LAT blogger Mike [...]

  8. 8
    L'Ombre de l'Olivier Says:

    had been trying to point out the error of his ways without much success so I decided to see what a neutral 3rd party could do. My first comment was successful, my second – an attempt to post precisely thesame link that Patterico was trying to post – failed miserably. It seems that Hiltzik is not just a bad scientist but a bad journalist who is unable to tolerate objective criticism. One bigger story doing the rounds in the blogosphere is the Duke Rape case.

  9. 9
    KURU Lounge Says:

    . Insider and Senior Administration Official have had some really good stuff lately, starting with the Charlie Sheen conspiracy post and it’s follow-ups, and running up through the entire Michael Hitzikscandal (also here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). Full Disclosure I have posted on Independent Sources, but not on these two subjects. I will be working on a conspiracy post with Insider and SAO soon. Not that the amount of traffic