Techdirt 2020: The Stats.

from the closing-the-books dept

Every year a few days after New Years we post some stats about traffic and comments to effectively close the books on the year. I know that lots of sites do this prior to the end of the year, but we always wait until the new year is really here to make sure we have all the actual stats. I had meant to do this last week, but last week was a bit crazy and it kept me a bit busier than the average "first week of January." So, we're running a bit late here. If you'd like to see all such previous posts, they are here: 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Also... a bit of an announcement. In all likelihood this will be the last year that we use Google Analytics for these stats. Over the last few months, we've been experimenting with a variety of analytics platforms that are more privacy focused, and we are likely to switch over entirely to them in the coming weeks. I don't know for sure, but it's likely we will turn off Google Analytics on this site relatively soon. As we've always said, though, nearly all analytics and traffic numbers are complete garbage, as they cannot distinguish between bots and real people, and many people chose to block analytics programs (especially Google). That's why we stopped reporting absolute numbers in these posts, because we knew they were not accurate. Instead, we do use them to tell relative numbers about which stories got the most traffic overall.

We'll start, as per usual, with where people are coming from. The top of this list tends to stay pretty much the same year in and year out. The majority of our traffic is from the US, not surprisingly. It's almost always between 67% and 70% of our traffic. This year, it was 69.6% of our traffic. The UK was second at 6.1%. Canada was next at 5.1%, then Australia, India, Germany, France, China, the Netherlands and Finland. The surprise here... is China. We've noted in past years how little traffic we get from China, and have received reports of being blocked there. However, it seems like we got a decent amount of traffic from there this year (about 0.8% of overall traffic). I'm not sure why. We did have a bunch of stories about TikTok, so perhaps that has something to do with it. China's entry seems to have pushed Sweden out of the top 10.

Chrome remains the main browser people use to visit the site, but once again that percentage is dropping (it did that last year too). In 2018 it was about 50% of our visitors came via Chrome. Last year it was 45%. This year it's down to 40%. Interesting... interesting... interesting. Safari has picked up much of the slack, jumping from 17% in 2018 to 22% last year and 28% this year. Seems like a trend worth watching. The next two browser listings are interesting: it's Android webview (12%) and Safari In-App at 7%. Arguably you could lump those with Chrome and Safari, but those are both the versions that people see on their mobile phone when they come across our story in another app, like Nuzzel or something. Firefox is hanging in there at 4.5% (down from 6% last year and 10% the year before). Internet Explorer usage continues to dwindle and now it's close to 1%. Microsoft Edge isn't really picking up the slack as it's at 1.8%. And I see Opera hanging in there at 0.5%.

On the operating system side, iOS now dominates, with 32% of our traffic coming from iOS devices. Another 31% is from Android. Those two have been neck-and-neck for years -- but always came below Windows. However, the era of mobile Techdirt has really taken over, and now Windows comes in 3rd with 23% of our traffic, and MacOS is at exactly 10%. Linux lovers are still there at 2.5%, and Chromes OS at just a bit under 1%. A small, but still surprising, amount of visits came from BlackBerry, Playstation 4, and Xbox.

As you can tell from the previous paragraph, mobile continues to grow. Last year was the first year we had more mobile visits that desktop, going from 39% to 55% from 2018 to 2019. In 2020 it was up to 64% (61% phone and 3% tablet). It's really quite amazing how quickly and how massively that shift has occurred. By device, the iPhone dominated the mobile traffic, which isn't surprising. The iPad was second. And from there a looooooong list of Samsung devices with a few Google Pixels thrown in along the way.

Every year we highlight this chart on the source of our traffic (next year's will likely look different, since our new analytics systems don't seem to have an exactly equivalent chart, but I should be able to piece together something similar). What's interesting to me is how similar this one is to last year's. Direct traffic is exactly the same as a percentage. Search traffic went down a bit, while social traffic went up a bit. But, as I always say, our focus has never been playing the games most other sites play to get traffic from social, and we prefer to build up loyal readers, and so the percentage of people coming direct has always been the most important to me. Those are our true supporters and fans. Indeed, people who come directly to the site spend significantly more time on the site and visit more pages than those coming from search, and especially social. People coming via social spend the least amount of time on our site, and visit the fewest pages.

In terms of outside sites that do send us traffic, we have a new one atop the leaderboard -- and this was a surprise to me as I've never even really been aware of it: SmartNews, which is a mobile news aggregator, sent the most (non-search) traffic to our site last year. Huh. If you read Techdirt via SmartNews, tell us about it. I was unaware it was even a thing. After that comes Twitter (with almost as much traffic as SmartNews), then Reddit, followed by Facebook, HackerNews, and the Drudge Report (?!?). In terms of search traffic, Google obviously provides the most, but DuckDuckGo and Bing both provide a surprising amount (and sent almost identical amounts of traffic to us last year).

The top search terms are always bizarre to look at. After variations on "Techdirt" our top search terms for traffic were... Addison Cain, Parler, Shiva Ayyadurai, Who Invented Email, FBI Surveillance Van Wifi, the Social Dilemma, and can you plagiarize yourself. I'll let you make of that what you will.

And now we get to the fun part. The lists!

Top Ten Stories, by unique pageviews, on Techdirt for 2020:

  1. Volunteers 3D-Print Unobtainable $11,000 Valve For $1 To Keep Covid-19 Patients Alive; Original Manufacturer Threatens To Sue
  2. Trump Promises To Defund The Entire Military, If Congress Won't Let Him Punish The Internet For Being Mean To Him
  3. As Predicted: Parler Is Banning Users It Doesn't Like
  4. Trump Campaign Gets Laughed Out Of Court For Claiming A Bunch Of Unvetted Webform Submissions Is 'Evidence' Of Voter Fraud
  5. President Trump Is So Upset About This Ad Showing His Failed Handling Of COVID-19 That He's Demanding It Be Taken Down
  6. Florida State Police Raid Home Of COVID Whistleblower, Point Guns At Her & Her Family, Seize All Her Computer Equipment
  7. SoftBank Owned Patent Troll, Using Monkey Selfie Law Firm, Sues To Block Covid-19 Testing, Using Theranos Patents
  8. Court Tells Lying Cops That Someone Asserting Their Rights Isn't 'Reasonably Suspicious'
  9. Mitch McConnell Using Section 230 Repeal As A Poison Pill To Avoid $2k Stimulus Checks
  10. Cable TV Execs Move Past Denial Stage, Now Fully Expect A 'Cord Cutting' Bloodbath
Pretty good mix of stories, though way too many stories about the president out of control. One hopes we'll have fewer such stories this year. I know a lot of people continue to link and send traffic to my you're wrong about Section 230 post, so for those interested, that one came in at number 16 on the year.

2020's Top Ten Stories, by comment volume:

  1. As Predicted: Parler Is Banning Users It Doesn't Like: 772 comments.
  2. Disney+ Titles Disappear Without Warning, Bringing Confusion To The Streaming Wars: 570 comments
  3. DHS Move Ahead With Plan To Harvest DNA Samples From Nearly Everyone Detained By ICE And CBP: 546 comments
  4. So Wait, People Really Think The Barr DOJ's Investigation Into Google Is In Good Faith?: 515 comments
  5. Copyright In The Modern Era: Fortnite Lets Players Mute Emote To Avoid Auto-Copyright Claims Against YouTubers: 432 comments
  6. Harper's Gives Prestigious Platform To Famous Writers So They Can Whine About Being Silenced: 413 comments
  7. Trump Campaign Gets Laughed Out Of Court For Claiming A Bunch Of Unvetted Webform Submissions Is 'Evidence' Of Voter Fraud: 342 comments
  8. Anti-Vaxxer Sues Facebook, In The Middle Of A Pandemic, For 'In Excess' Of $5 Billion For Shutting Down His Account: 315 comments
  9. Joe Biden Can't Tell The Difference Between The 1st Amendment & Section 230; Still Thinks Video Games Cause Violence: 291 comments
  10. Mitch McConnell Using Section 230 Repeal As A Poison Pill To Avoid $2k Stimulus Checks: 289 comments
That first story, about Parler's content moderation practices, is amusing -- and I recommend potentially subscribing to the comment feed there. Every few days angry Parler supporters show up to whine and scream at us about how now we (we?) are getting a taste or our own medicine, and how of course Parler has to ban "leftists" because they're not serious -- without any of them ever (not once) recognizing that they're proving our point. Our point was not that Parler shouldn't moderate, but that it would and it would be subject to the same forces that make moderation inevitable (though, obviously over the past few days, that story has blown up in new ways as well).

It looks like we actually have two overlapping stories between the most trafficked and the most commented. And that's rare. Usually there's either none or just one. Also interesting to see that the last one on the list is a post from two days before the end of the year. Don't often see those top the comment charts.

And now the really fun part: the commenting leader boards:

2020 Top Commenters, by comment volume:

  1. Scary Devil Monastery: 4099 comments
  2. PaulT: 4013 comments
  3. Stephen T. Stone: 3697 comments
  4. That One Guy: 2768 comments
  5. bhull242: 1594 comments
  6. Uriel-238: 1216 comments
  7. ECA: 1153 comments
  8. Toom1275: 849 comments
  9. Samuel Abram: 800 comments
  10. Thad: 722 comments
By definition, most regular commenter readers should recognize those prolific regulars. I will admit to some surprise that SDM is in the top spot. Just from noticing comments, I would have bet that Stephen T. Stone would have retained the top spot he finally wrestled away from PaulT and That One Guy in previous years... but SDM (who was new to the list last year) leapfrogged all of them, and PaulT even pulled back ahead of Stephen.

Top 10 Most Insightful Commenters, based on how many times they got the light bulb icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the lightbulb

  1. Stephen T. Stone: 1160 comments (31.4%)
  2. PaulT: 1043 comments (26%)
  3. That One Guy: 901 comments (32.6%)
  4. Scary Devil Monastery: 266 (6.5%)
  5. Michael Masnick: 223 comments (42.3%)
  6. Uriel-238: 215 comments (17.7%)
  7. Thad: 199 comments (27.6%)
  8. bhull242: 152 comments (9.5%)
  9. Toom1275: 128 comments (15.1%)
  10. Anonymous Anonymous Coward: 120 comments (18.1%)
A lot of overlap from the most commented lists, but kudos to everyone for making insightful comments.

Top 10 Funniest Commenters, based on how many times they got the LOL icon: Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the LOL icon

  1. Stephen T. Stone: 94 comments (2.5%)
  2. That One Guy: 57 comments (2.1%)
  3. Thad: 40 comments (5.5%)
  4. Norahc: 30 comments (9.6%)
  5. Toom1275: 16 comments (1.9%)
  6. Bloof: 16 comments (5.6%)
  7. Koby: 14 comments (3%)
  8. PaulT: 14 comments (0.4%)
  9. Anonymous Anonymous Coward: 13 comments (2%)
  10. Samuel Abram: 12 comments (1.5%)
Again, the community is much more stingy with funny votes than insightful votes (and certainly we see some using the "funny" vote lately as a sort of satirical vote on trollish commenters). Notably, last year we called out NorahC for having, by far, the highest percentage of funny comments of anyone who qualified, and they kept it up this year, and even had a higher percentage while posting more comments. That's impressive.

And... with that, the 2020 books are closed, and we've already got a huge number of 2021 comments. I ended last year's post by saying I was sure there would be plenty to talk about in 2020, but I, uh, underestimated just how comment worthy 2020 would be. Here's hopefully to a less eventful 2021, even as it's started off with a bang.

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Filed Under: 2020, stats, techdirt


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 12 Jan 2021 @ 2:21pm

    Or you could drop the site from your bookmarks and go read something more on your level. Do they publish Curious George books online?


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