Has FOI helped reveal which national newspaper has the most influence in Whitehall?

The Daily Telegraph reports today on an FOI request which asked for a list of the top 1,000 most visited websites accessed from the Department for Transport’s computers. (the pdf is here).

The Telegraph goes heavy on some of the more unusual ones – such as sexymp.co.uk andbearsfraction.org.uk (medieval role play since you ask) but also finds space to list the most visited national newspaper websites – as well it might, given the Daily Telegraph tops the list.

Ranked 13 on the overall list, The Telegraph edged out the Daily Mail (31), The Independent (57), The Guardian (144), and The Sun (199).

Another way of looking at that is that more pages from www.etiquettehell.com were viewed on DfT computers than on the Guardian and The Sun.

Does this suggest The Telegraph is the most influential newspaper among parts of Whitehall? Although the BBC tops the list, it is also the natural go-to site for breaking news. A national newspaper website is, of course, different – it will break more exclusives, express a political tone and so on.

It could, of course, be because of the MPs expenses scandal, thoroughly owned by the Telegraph from beginning to end.

Foolishly, I’d assumed the Guardian would always win such a competition, given its coverage of the public sector in general.

The regional newspapers I spotted on there included the Hastings Observer (4,489 visits and in 859th place), the Portsmouth News (5,026 vistits and in 847th place, just ahead of the Newcastle United website), The Herald in Scotland (7,033 visits in 795th place, ahead of Weight Watchers and Amazon) The Birmingham Post (9,197 visits in 737th place, ahead of onlinegooner) The Daily Echo (17,480 visits in 543rd place, just ahaead of The Times), The Brighton Argus (29,626 visits, 364th)

PS – I’m not suggesting the DfT doesn’t take the RMT trade union seriously, but the websites www.rockmywedding.co.uk, www.smallworldbellydance.com and www.doctorwhotoys.net were all visited more frequently than the trade union’s site!

PPS – And as for the Highways Agency website being viewed just three more times than debenhams.com at the DfT….

5 comments

  1. The short answer is no, it shows nothing of the sort. At the bottom of that PDF is a fairly important note, saying that the figures are hits, not visits or pageviews. Every text, image or video component on a page registers as a separate hit – so does every linked JavaScript file and stylesheet. And so on. So unless you know how many hits each page on the Telegraph website generates, these figures are junk.

    1. I agree with you, to a point. I don’t think it’s as simple as saying you need to know how many different elements make up a page, you also need to know where those elements are being served from – for example, images.icnetwork.co.uk features on the list. That said, I don’t think the figures are junk. They’re indicative, and interesting. The question, if we were to take this seriously, would be, whether the Telegraph site pulls in x times as many parts as The Guardian to make up the difference in numbers, if that makes sense.

      Where it is possible to make better comparisons is between sites which are built to the same specifications – such as the Newsquest ones which feature on the list. Why only those on the south coast featuring on the list, and not those in the North? Would it be a fair conclusion to draw that the Brighton and Dorset sites are popular because they are within commuting distance and therefore being used for personal use, rather than for work use?

      Like I said, I take your point and it wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously – I do like it as a use of FOI

      1. I’d be really interested to know precisely what question was asked in order to get this response – if the DfT was asked for “most visited” and instead gave hits figures, that’s a fascinatingly evasive use of figures. And while yes, there are definitely some interesting questions to be asked, the fact that many of the “most popular” sites might simply have been serving popular ads on other sites surely makes it very difficult – if not impossible – to extrapolate anything useful from the noise.

    1. Looks to me very much as though whoever wrote that request has no idea what the difference is between hits, visits and pageviews. The question as it’s phrased is asking two entirely separate things. I’m not sure what the DfT could have done differently in that situation either – but it seems pretty clear the requester wanted pages viewed and was asking for the wrong thing.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s