When you become “a person of interest” to the Whaleoil team, we crawl up your business with a fine tooth comb. Ok, that’s awful, but you know what I’m getting at.
It was as part of looking into the Internet Party and Alastair Thompson that we’ve noticed something odd about Scoop Media’s web site: scoop.co.nz.
But before I jump ahead of myself, let’s have a look at some hard data using Alexa as an independent source. Neither Scoop Media nor I have the ability to influence what this service captures about our web sites.
First, this is what Alexa has to say about Whaleoil
That’s about right.
You can see the Len Brown spike, and the subsequent residual audience we have retained from it. And you can see the dips around Christmas and New Year.
And, when competing against the likes of TradeMe, Google and Facebook, we still come in at 54th most visited site in New Zealand.
Notice our world-wide rank has improved nearly 3000 spots to 43,000-ish. 43,000th most popular site in the world. Pretty irrelevant to us, but keep that number in mind.
Next, we look at scoop.co.nz
Scoop.co.nz have had an amazing surge in world-wide popularity.
Even though they rank a mere 280th for New Zealand audiences, they have improved their world-wide ranking from about 46,000 to 24,000 with a very impressive jump of 22,212 positions.
And this is where anyone with half a logical brain cell goes: “What?”
How is it possible for scoop.co.nz to be less popular than Whaleoil for New Zealand audiences, but at least twice more popular than Whaleoil to international audiences?
To understand this, we need to break down the traffic sources by country.
Here is Whaleoil
82.6% of our traffic comes from New Zealand. That’s why we’re so highly ranked in NZ.
This is Scoop
Now, those are the hard facts.
Let’s look at another metric: Browsing location (Home, school or work)
Once again, Whaleoil is first
As you would expect with a site like ours, our content appeals to adults. Adults tend to be either at home or at work when they read Whaleoil.
Now, Scoop, with news, press releases, and such… where do you think the majority of their audience will come from?
So the question that goes begging is:
Why, exactly, is Scoop Media’s scoop.co.nz web site so popular in the education sectors of India and Pakistan?
And why is New Zealand traffic to scoop.co.nz only 10.5% of their total traffic?
Traffic on scoop.co.nz has settled a bit, but the Most visited site world-wide ranking shot from about 70,000 to 13,000 last year.
The question is: why?
What happened in the world, or in New Zealand, that made Scoop shoot from 70,000 to 13,000 in a matter of a week or two, but curiously enough, mostly for web site visitors from India?
Right now, they have over 500% more traffic from India than New Zealand.
From Indian educational institutes, in fact.
Could it be cricket related? After all, India is touring New Zealand at the moment. A check of Scoop’s archives show very little cricket related press releases or coverage and certainly nothing recent so it can’t be that.
So up to here, this is all hard data. Let me now start running through what I believe is going on.
In my mind there is only one explanation.
They’re cheating by buying international traffic to boost their ratings.
This is where we enter the realms of speculation.
On the one hand, it would appear that the more traffic you have, the more you get paid for your advertising. But that’s pretty useless, because people have to click on the ads before that has any value to the business.
Question: Are Scoop getting Indian school and uni kids to click their ads?
So, if it’s not boosting actual income right now, why else would you want to puff up the web site stats?
Perhaps Selwyn Pellet has been scammed?
Scoop Media owner Selwyn Pellett said: “We had no idea of the extent of [Alastair Tompson’s] involvement until Cameron Slater’s blog today.
“We knew he was considering some involvement and the discussion was ‘you can’t do both jobs’. You can’t be an editor and be actively involved in Dotcom’s party.”
He added: “It is disappointing. There is no ill-feeling with Alastair. This is his passion and it is what he believes in and wants to do.”
What else has Selwyn not been told about. Is he, once again, reading it first on Whaleoil?
But if Selwyn does know, why would this artificial web site traffic boosting be happening?
We have looked at the Scoop Media Cartel previously, with sites like The Strandard and Public Address involved in getting advertising revenue via their cooperative traffic volume. Is this where the scam lies? Are they charging, or planning to charge, their advertisers higher fees based on fake web site traffic?
And if it isn’t that, perhaps Alastair Thompson has been inflating the value of his work, so that when he sells out of the business, his shares are worth more?
Or, they’re all pretty much in it together, and they’re trying to pump up Scoop’s artificial value before scamming some new shareholder, or floating the company publicly?
Selwyn Pellett, who has recently invested in Scoop with his brother Craig, was tweeting too. He said he and his brother had invested because they wanted to help Alastair push Scoop to the next level. “As the major shareholder in Scoop Holdings Ltd I can assure you it’s the beginning not the end.” But he was also providing news the old-fashioned way – in conversations with reporters who then wrote their versions of the resignation story for their parent companies – print, or radio, or television – and for their organisations’ news websites. — Scoop
The hard data stands.
Let’s see what crawls out of the woodwork in terms of coherent explanation.
One thing about artificial traffic inflation is that you have to keep it going, otherwise it crashes again. Anyone who signs a contract with Scoop for any commercial reasons better add a penalty clause that the moving average web site traffic never falls below 90% of the average traffic that was current when they signed up.
Apart from that, I have no idea who would want to pay for Scoop adverts when 8 out of 10 people that “read” Scoop are from India or Pakistan.