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Old January 27, 2010, 01:44 PM
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Default The Dark Side of the Web: Traffic Inflation

NinjaLane takes an in-depth look at website traffic inflation and how it is being done. From the outside, competition between different websites in this industry may seem to be good natured but that is far from the truth. The reality of the situation is that increasingly cut-throat websites vie for an ever decreasing pool of advertising money and a... [ Read full article ]
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Old January 27, 2010, 08:30 PM
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OK, I'll bite... I'm guessing HWC isn't one of the 'offending' sites, and doesn't try to artificially inflate traffic to the site. But why not? It's not a moral or ethical decision; it's a business decision. It's unfortunate that people will do anything to make money, but that isn't the problem. The real problem is that people aren't more careful with how they spend their money.

Take the traffic inflation issue as an example. The auto-refreshing to increase traffic is a tactic developed by people who have found a way to make money by doing it. One would think that the next step would be for the advertisers to find another way to monitor traffic and be sure that their money is being well spent... but it seems that isn't the case. Why? Is it impossible? I don't think so. Someone could develop a way to measure, say, how long a mouse hovers over a link, or how long a page is looked at before it's refreshed, or any other number of ways that you could guess at whether or not your ads are being looked at. But no, it doesn't work this way. Why?

It seems to me that it is human nature to put more concern on accumulation than distribution. That would certainly explain the vast wealth and yet incredible poverty faced by the world today. It also explains how I worked three overtime shifts last pay period, and then wasted all of my extra money on a computer part I probably didn't need. And also, it explains why, when so much emphasis is put on making money in a capitalist society, so many people have no money. I figure that by the time I retire, I'll have made about three million dollars. But if I'm not careful, I won't even have 10% of that to live on. If I have any hope of retiring, I must not only make more money, but be very careful with what I do with what I make.

While making more money is a good thing, I might not do something unethical to do it (like sell drugs). But if I were a business, not an individual, I wouldn't have a choice. The competition does it, you must do it; otherwise, you won't be in competition very long. Either that, or come up with some other way to give yourself a comparative advantage... Anyway, I think that business and ethics don't really mix. So if HWC is taking the moral high road on this one, I pray they come to their senses and stay competitive, because I really like this site!

/end rant
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Old January 27, 2010, 09:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mikellini View Post
OK, I'll bite... I'm guessing HWC isn't one of the 'offending' sites, and doesn't try to artificially inflate traffic to the site. But why not? It's not a moral or ethical decision; it's a business decision. It's unfortunate that people will do anything to make money, but that isn't the problem. The real problem is that people aren't more careful with how they spend their money.
I'll respond more tomorrow but I wanted to address this part right now. You are absolutely wrong and there's a perfectly legitimate analogy for what you are saying as well.

If a professional athlete takes performance enhancing drugs in order to boost his / her performance to get sponsorship money, you're saying it's up to the sponsors themselves to be careful? Come on. There is no way for them to know and while it may be a "business decision" on the part of the athlete, it is a poor one at that and one which SHOULD cause the athlete's name to be sullied. Not to mention it is completely immoral and unethical.

Much like with this boosting process for websites. It is next to impossible for an advertiser to pick up offending sites unless the site in question sends over the vast majority of their Google Analytics info....which no site in their right mind would do. So how can they "be more careful"?
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Old January 28, 2010, 06:23 AM
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no but if you want to see 1 site that's bad just go to the drudgereport they refresh like every minute or something like that. and i agree with skymtl it's a dirty way to do business. jm2cents and i want change.
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Old January 28, 2010, 07:07 AM
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To continue what I was saying....

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikellini View Post
OK, I'll bite... I'm guessing HWC isn't one of the 'offending' sites, and doesn't try to artificially inflate traffic to the site. But why not? It's not a moral or ethical decision; it's a business decision. It's unfortunate that people will do anything to make money, but that isn't the problem. The real problem is that people aren't more careful with how they spend their money.
Doing this is no different from an accountant cooking the books to attract investors, a Ponzi scheme hooking unknowing investors, etc. If a large company like the Ziff Davis group used traffic bots to increase readership, it would be considered illegal. Small tech websites shouldn't consider themselves above the law.

I totally agree with the rest of your points though since the whole situation is hard to monitor and the web in general is still like the Wild West.
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Old January 28, 2010, 07:09 AM
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Originally Posted by gingerbee View Post
no but if you want to see 1 site that's bad just go to the drudgereport they refresh like every minute or something like that. and i agree with skymtl it's a dirty way to do business. jm2cents and i want change.
Drudge Report is a bit different since they have the traffic. On the other hand, they do it because people appreciate getting the latest news...which it seems they post at minute intervals. In those situations, it is understandable. What IS a pain in the butt though is a heavy site like MSNBC.com doing it with their loaded front page.
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Old January 28, 2010, 07:20 AM
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ya i can see your point drudge has earn the volume and the reason be hind it is news updates and also the ads=$. but they have earned it i think. I try not to use msn
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Old January 28, 2010, 07:49 AM
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Every website I support (not many) either gets a cash membership fee or a donation, or I click a few ads I usually have zero interest in, or am already familiar with the products offered. Pity that more readers don't do the same. I think any good website can stand on its own merits. At least, I hope they can. They should. Right now, from my perspective of watching the Internet mature (I was an early adapter), I fear the worst. Bandwidth caps, throttling, botnets, drive-by downloads, popups, data mining, traffic inflation, eMail spam, phishing, ...I feel dirty just firing up my modem. I can't live without it though, unless I homestead. Oops, sorry for straying off-topic.
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Old January 28, 2010, 11:16 AM
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Well the analogy of the athlete isn't really fair, since the athlete is an individual and not really a 'business', per se. Of course, the athlete's name should and would be sullied, but that has nothing to do with his survival as a person; the reason it's so cut-throat with business is because it's about survival. I think that it's clear that advertisers don't want to spend money on athletes that have a bad name (think about the recent issues with Tiger Woods), but what they really should be doing is keeping tabs on these people to make sure they are spending their investment money wisely. And, my other point was that, while this should happen, it just doesn't, and it has more to do with human nature than logistics.

The 'Wild West' mentality of the internet is precisely why it's different than an accountant cooking the books etc... this goes along the lines of "it's not cheating if you don't get caught", or any other cliche you want to insert there. If you want to remain morally and ethically responsible, you have to "follow the rules", even if it pushes you out of business, right? Tell that to your shareholders etc...
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Old January 28, 2010, 11:30 AM
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The Wild West mentality takes a back seat when it comes to business dealings within a website and only has to do with actual policing. There have been plenty of cases where shady website dealings have led to actual prosecution. We have already heard of several compaines who are considering launching lawsuits against websites they have advertised with due to falsified traffic numbers. I believe there will be a relatively large lawsuit involving this coming up in the next 3-4 months if rumors are to be believed.

Even more interesting is the fact that quite a few companies I have spoken to have read the NL article are are monitoring potential sites much closer. Yes, it's too bad it took something like this to get them to do things differently but at least it is a start.

So yes, in terms of enforcement within the internet, there isn't much there. However, it isn't our position that users, readers and advertisers should be aware of what websites do with their viewership and how it can be misconstrued towards a falsified financial gain. As they say: knowledge is usually your best weapon.
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