Unique Visits to Candidate Websites

At the risk of getting sucked into 2008 coverage embarrassingly early:

Fred Wilson, smart guy, progressive, and author of A VC, notes that Hillary Clinton’s and Barak Obama’s websites have many, many more unique visitors than John Edwards’s or any of the Republican contenders.

What is the lesson here?

As Mr. Wilson notes, “two months don’t tell much of a story.” This could be good news for Clinton and Obama: it suggests that their supporters are more engaged and their contact lists more robust. On the other hand, it could be a sign of untapped strength for the Republicans. After all, the ratio of Democratic to Republican voters certainly isn’t 5 or 6:1.

The main question is, why on earth is the traffic data skewed so heavily toward two Democratic candidates? Are these numbers even real? A few weeks ago, Jeff Jarvis made the case that Obama’s YouTube traffic is being hacked.

Beware internet numbers, though. This is not a mass medium. It is a mass of niches. And even the biggest numbers are necessarily small. … So whether they’re gamed or not, view all these internet tallies with suspicion. They are for entertainment only, no wagering or governing with them allowed.

Perhaps Patrick Ruffini, Internet strategy adviser for the Guliani campaign, could comment on these figures. In his recent post, Do Democrats Own the Internet?, he says that in 2006 traffic tracked with and media coverage. Mr. Ruffini also notes that email listservs are more effective than websites for coordination and fund-raising, and predicts that the Democratic edge will moderate as the election nears and more voters are paying attention.

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