Wikipedia Page Visits – Have You Measured Your Mobile Visits Lately?

Miriam Hirschman, February 24, 2016

A good way to gauge the popularity of a topic is to look at traffic to that topic’s Wikipedia page. Traffic to the page is a quantifiable measure that is easily understood and easily compared across topics.

This is particularly interesting for a company or famous person. When a CEO says or does something notable or a company experiences a crisis, Wikipedia article traffic reveals a spike in interest.

Each Wikipedia article includes a link to view these traffic statistics, although the link itself is somewhat difficult to find. For this reason, we at Five Blocks bring this valuable data to the forefront and share it with our clients. We include it in our reporting and we feature a graph of this data on our automated monitoring tool.

On January 21, 2016, the Wikipedia traffic statistics page stopped updating. It turned out this was the beginning of a migration to a new Wiki traffic measurement site. By the first week in February, the reporting was back from a new source. It improved on the old source, by allowing for viewing statistics for flexible date ranges. It even allowed a user to slice the data by traffic source (desktop vs. mobile). But that’s when we realized something was off. The traffic numbers from this tool were quite a bit higher than they were on the old one.

A bit of checking revealed the answer: the old tool was only reporting article visits from people using a computer, while the new tool included computer users and those on mobile devices. We were happy to learn that the reporting from the new data source was more comprehensive. But this had significant implications for our reporting until that point. Reporting from the old source actually understated the actual number of visitors to the wiki article.

For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s traffic as reported on the old tool would look like this:

Mark Zuckerberg Wikipedia Traffic

This shows average daily traffic around 7700 visits with a peak on Feb. 7.

But the more complete picture includes mobile traffic as well. It looks like this:

Mark Zuckerberg Wikipedia Traffic with Mobile Traffic

Average daily visits are actually 17,300. And the spike on Feb. 7 is now quite pronounced. (That’s when Zuckerberg wished the world a Happy Lunar New Year in Mandarin and announced his baby daughter’s Chinese name.)

Ignoring the mobile traffic here omits over half the visits to the page, totally under-representing actual interest in Mark Zuckerberg. Note a similar pattern with Royal Caribbean, which experienced its own crisis on Feb. 9 with news of its ship getting damaged in rough seas.

Royal Caribbean Wikipedia Traffic

With the new data source only retroactive to August 2015, any historical data (from the old source) will require a big asterisk to remind us that we are not seeing the full picture. While the old data will still be useful to search for trends, patterns, and spikes in Wiki article views, it comes with the important caveat that the numbers themselves fall short of actual traffic. Certainly, new data should not be compared with old data given the different basis for measurement.

Obviously, the proportion of mobile traffic to a Wiki article will vary depending on how relevant that topic is to a mobile audience. But this point is clear: mobile traffic to wiki is significant. And omitting it means a significant under-representation of the popular interest in a topic, particularly during a reputation crisis.

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