Thursday, March 08, 2018

I read the fake news today, oh boy


In his latest bragfest which is seen above, Norman Lebrecht perpetuates the falsehood that Google Analytics measures people - ie. human readers. What Google Analytics actually measures is website page hits, which is very different to human readers. A page hit is a measure of a connection between any online device and the Slipped Disc server. The online device may or may not be read by a human, and, as a previous post explained, a large proportion - an estimated 50% - of page hits are robots and not human eyeballs. Which means the real Slipped Disc readership is in all probability around half the claimed 164,188.

What I find puzzling and sad is that everyone professionally involved with social media - and that includes Norman Lebrecht who is certainly not stupid - knows that Google Analytics does not and cannot measure people. Lebrect could easily have explained in a simple sentence that Google Analytics need to be discounted by an estimated 50% to give a measure of human readers. This would give a figure of around 80,000 page hits by readers*.

That corrected daily readership of 80,000 is still impressively large: it is many times larger than On An Overgrown Path's readership and considerably larger I would guess than any other classical blog. Slipped Disc is, for better or worse, undoubtedly the most widely read classical blog. So why the need to knowingly overstate readership? Why the need to undermine the credibility of the whole classical blogging sector by peddling transparently fake news? Well, the answer to those two questions is provided by an influential journalist who wrote in the Evening Standard newspaper back in 2006 that "classical web-chat is opinion-rich and info-poor". And who was the influential journalist who wrote those wise words? It was Norman Lebrecht of course.

* But note that the 80,000 is an estimate of total hits by reader, not hits by unique readers; because the same reader often returns more than once to a website during a single day. So, once again, the claimed readership will be materially overstated. Talking of fake news, is not the same thing as unique readers.

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14 comments:

Joe Shelby said...

I'm definitely guilty of going back to the same post during a day. First, because comments are moderated, it'll take time to see if it even got approved and posted in the first place, and then later (again, because comments are delayed) to see if anybody replied.

Pliable said...

Joe, what I also find puzzling and sad is the unquestioning sycophancy of the Slipped Disc comments. More and more I believe that with Slipped Disc classical music is getting precisely what it deserves.

Hank Drake said...

If Slipped Disc is indeed the number one Classical music oriented site, that would speak very poorly about the state of Classical music in the world today. There is, in fact, precious little discussion of actual music on Slipped Disc. Instead, there's a high dose of gossip, innuendo, and baiting for comments - many of which are no doubt posted by sockpuppet accounts to spark flame-wars.

Pliable said...

Hank, I could not have put it better myself.

Hank Drake said...

I feel very sorry for musicians who feel they have to whore themselves out to Lebrecht for the sake of whatever limited benefits it brings. I have lost a great deal of respect for a number of musicians who have done so - and I doubt I'm alone.

I'd also say that 80,000 hits out of a total human population of nearly eight billion people is not terribly impressive.

Pliable said...

"I have lost a great deal of respect for a number of musicians who have done so - and I doubt I'm alone".

Hank no, you are certainly not alone. And it is not just musicians I have lost respect for; it is record companies, orchestras, other journalists etc etc

Joe Shelby said...

If you're talking about all the OJ-Schoenberg stuff, I just brushed past that. Been in the online world since 1993 and earlier, I find it usually easy to just skim past the fluff and look for something of substance or sincerity.

At this point, I mostly follow because, well, there's not much else out there besides his and yours and a handful of others that don't post with nearly so much regularity. Podcasts tend to last about a year or less and burn out (fortunately, the Classics for Kids, 5 minutes each (though 1 minute of that is just the opening/closing 'credits' work) is still going, so I have something to play for my 6 year old).

I usually 'read' by skimming through my RSS feed first on feedly (used to use Google Reader), so I only click through to the ones that actually look informative, rather than the personnel posts.

Will Wilkin said...

Joe Shelby, because you wrote "there's not much else out there besides his and yours and a handful of others that don't post with nearly so much regularity," I must mention my favorite music blog of all, Music Salon by Bryan Townsend. Bryan publishes very thoughtful original articles usually several times per week, usually with serious musicological content, often focusing on a composer or a compositional technique, and often reflecting on the state of classical music in the larger context of contemporary culture. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

http://themusicsalon.blogspot.com/

Philip Amos said...

Today and on previous occasions, I've posted in comments on SD the same observations made by sagacious posters of comments above. We are not fooled, and it rather disturbs me that so many are, for SD and Lebrecht in his various other activities (e.g., those pathetic record reviews) does much damage. (I don't post on SD under my own name for a reason that may possibly be guessed.)

I am very much with Hank re the whoring that is going on. I suspect that with musicians it boils down to 'Grant NL an interview and a flow of positive PR shall be yours. Don't, or otherwise cross him, and you'll become a non-person or he'll subject you to endless denigration if not outright calumny'. Far, far too many play it safe. In their cases, one might get the impression that they are all dear friends of Norman's, given his perpetual use of first names and nicknames. He's not stupid -- he's pretty clever. But clever is not intelligent (as his books on music demonstrate), and he seems unable to pull back as he approaches the line over which lies rather pathetic name-dropping. I rather doubt if 'Slava' sent Norman an admiration-saturated birthday card without fail. Grigory Sokolov sure as hell doesn't. Now there's a musician who truly has Norman's number, as we know.

One thing I have not seen mentioned is that he customarily adds posts throughout the day, and that must surely means return visits by those who revel in it, i.e., people who love a drop of sex and scandal; those who enjoy pouncing on his errors and deliberately misleading, clickbait headers, and right-wing trolls who only weigh in his not infrequent politically charged posts. That just leaves the relatively few who scan for the occasional post of some genuine interest. On the whole, it is the National Enquirer of music blogs. In that sense it might be the 'go-to' site for news of a certain sort, but it simply cannot be compared with those blogs, most obviously this one, which seek to furnish insightful, well-researched or informed by first-hand experience, articles on music and its practice. To say that the novels of Dan Brown have more readers than those of Henry Green is to make a vacuous statement.

Pliable said...

And running true to form a comment on Lebrecht's post plagiarises my critique without attribution:

'DENNIS SAYS:
March 8, 2018 at 6:29 pm
Firstly, those Google analytics stats don’t actually measure discreet viewers, so many could be reapeat visitors who click on the site more than once a day.

Secondly, many (estimated to be upwards of 50%) of the clicks registered by Google analytics are by other machines or bots, not necessarily actual people.'

Hank Drake said...

Plagiarism at Slipped Disc? Wouldn't be the first time.

http://hankdrake.blogspot.com/2015/07/plagiarism-or-merely-unattributed.html

Pliable said...

Hank, this thread could run and run - http://www.overgrownpath.com/2014/11/i-read-news-today-oh-boy.html

Hank Drake said...

Kind of like when Lebrecht called Toscanini "An Italian band master" without attributing Sir Thomas Beecham, who coined the phrase.

Philip Amos said...

Or, through a number of locutions, some blatant, some devious, suggesting that a story on SD is a 'scoop' when, in fact, it has already been broadcast via one or more outlets. Or, in record reviews, presenting background information straight out of Wikipedia.