Last month I speculated that the audience figures for Commsrisk had been so high that it would be a long time before any new records were set. I was wrong. The record for most visits in a day was smashed on February 18 and traffic levels remained so elevated that February 19 also surpassed the old record. February also delivered the two most popular weeks in Commsrisk history. However, the total number of visitors narrowly fell short of the record for the most within a calendar month. If February was 31 days long then the record would have been broken.
Many people ask me to report absolute audience figures for Commsrisk but I always refuse. One reason is that facts are less useful than they seem if the recipient of those facts lacks the conceptual models needed to appreciate them. Most people believe they understand web traffic in the same way that most people believe they understand schools, but browsing the web or being a pupil does not provide the same perspective as that obtained by the person who supplies the service. It is not that unusual to find professionals whose limited mathematical skills leaves them unable to properly interpret data they receive; examples include fraud professionals who cannot identify patterns in fraud. This is evident when listening to somebody who refers to the average level of fraud but who refuses to say anything about its distribution. Planning for the mean average is useless if actual life is nothing like the average; there are 1.97 legs per human being but nobody makes trousers with 1.97 legs. Something similar happens with web traffic, because those averages are illusory too. There are patterns, but these cannot be reduced to a couple of statistics. Some of these patterns relate to the kind of topic covered by an article, the choice of headline, which countries the story relates to, if the audience in that country speaks English, and so forth. The sophistication of these patterns will not be conveyed by discussing averages.
There are also patterns that relate to where an audience has come from in cyberspace as well as the audience member’s geographical location. One simple example is the difference between people who visit every day because of habit, compared to visitors who clicked on a headline on a subreddit because it was posted there by somebody who saw a tweet posted by somebody who saw somebody else’s tweet that copied the opening paragraph of the article from LinkedIn. The result is layers of traffic, some of which is predictable and baseline, and some of which generates extreme peaks that are unpredictable. Averaging this traffic is meaningless because the baseline readers are the most engaged readers, whilst stating an average number of readers reveals nothing about engagement. And yet, the baseline grows over time because new peaks introduce Commsrisk to people who have never visited before. A small fraction of the readers brought in by viral peaks will become baseline readers. Meanwhile, peaks are increasingly frequent because the growing baseline improves the chances of somebody instigating a chain reaction that goes viral amongst their online followers.
Commsrisk always has, and always will run articles on topics that bring in relatively few visitors. An example from this month concerned a United Nations agency promoting a privately-owned business that is a threat to the privacy of millions of phone users. The people who are threatened live in Africa, and the average internet geek in California has no interest in the consequences of corruption in Africa, so they will not read this article. Other articles have been driving Commsrisk’s traffic to new levels. They cover topics which are likely to go viral on social media, sucking in a lot of new visitors in a short period. If I just wanted big audience figures then I would do what most of the tech press does every day: write lots of tittle tattle about Elon Musk whilst ignoring topics that are much more important. But the purpose of Commsrisk is not just to bring in the largest audience. The goal is also to draw attention to the issues that have been neglected. Commsrisk needs the big viral stories so the other stories will also be noticed, but always maximizing the audience figures would contradict that goal.
The following rundown ranks articles by the number of unique views during February.
- Elon Musk Says Twitter Lost $60mn a Year Because 390 Telcos Used Bot Accounts to Pump A2P SMS
- Ukraine Police Raid Simbox Farms Spreading Russian Propaganda via 1.5 Million Fake Internet Accounts
- FCC Threatens to Disconnect Twilio for Illegal Robocalls
- Elon Musk Has Radical Solution for A2P SMS Fraud: Twitter Turns Off 2-Factor Authentication by SMS
- Disconnecting Twilio Would Have Been a Disaster; How Do We Stop Illegal Robocalls Pushing Us to the Brink?
- Is Netflix Going to Kick 100 Million Viewers Off Its Platform?
- Google MVNO Privacy Breach Leads to SIM Swap Takeover
- Suspected Paris Bomb Was Actually an IMSI-Catcher
- Samsung Swaps eSIMs of Customers before Phones are Delivered; SIM Swap Fraud Panic Ensues
- Paris IMSI-Catcher Mistaken for Bomb Was Actually Used for Health Insurance SMS Phishing Scam