My first post on the decline of various Catholic media outlets got a little bit of attention, as well as some good criticism. Namely:
- What about some more niche but still popular websites, like Rorate Caeli, or Barnhardt, or Gloria.tv?
- Could you balance out the data from Alexa (known to be egregiously inaccurate on occasion) with data from other estimates, like SimilarWeb, so as to get a more accurate estimate?
- How are some other, non-blogger websites doing throughout these events, such as the SSPX website?
In this post, I shall try to answer those questions, with a new round of research. First, I will research the old round from part one on other websites to see if the Alexa analytics hold, and then I will inspect the following websites:
- newsaintthomas.com (Taylor Marshall’s group)
- novusordowatch.org (Sedevacantist, I believe, but still interesting)
- from-rome.info (Also Sedevacantist, but still interesting)
- boniface-institute.com (Alexander Tschugguel’s group)
As well as some of the more “mainstream” Catholic media to see how they are fairing specifically, such as:
- National Catholic Register
- National Schismatic Reporter (Fishwrap!)
- Catholic Answers
- CommonwealMagazine.org (Lesser known but I read it a bit once, and it was awful! Fr. Z would lose his mind over some of their NCReporter-level antics. Just read their Wikipedia for a taste!)
- AmericaMagazine.org (Fishwrap 2.0)
- Vatican.va (because why not?)
Hey Alexa, how does the first set rank?
This is a really interesting image. From Alexa’s perspective:
- Patrick Coffin doesn’t rank at all. He also owns patrickcoffin.net, but that also doesn’t rank.
- Everyone suffered a decline around the same time as in Part One, and it mostly remains flat to today except for, (dun-dun-dun) NovusOrdoWatch.org and FromRome.info. Which are, as far as I am aware, are both sedevacantist or sedevacantist-leaning. They saw a big uptick. Hmm…
- Alexander Tschugguel’s Boniface institute is half a year old, has no activity on their website, and doesn’t rank at all.
- New St. Thomas Institute got some activity going once in a while, and then flatlines for a while for it to happen again.
- Barnhardt is kind of hard to see, but she’s the pink line that is behind many of the other lines. She suffered a decline at the same time as everyone (again), yet is actually going up again.
Pure traffic statistics in the US:
|Rank in [US]||231364||30479||119973||163181||171504||70877||255818|
And your obligatory traffic sources:
And the obligatory fascinating bubble map:
Okay, fascinating. Kind of weird that SSPX and New St. Thomas are in the same bubble and so far away from gloria.tv, but it’s all estimates here. Fr Z and OnePeterFive are in the same bubble like before with CatholicFamilyNews and Church Militant. I guess the “bubbling” depends on the level of density and sites you set. In this case, because the SSPX is so different than Barnhardt and Gloria.tv, it makes the differences between viewers of 1P5 and CM look smaller my comparison, so they share a bubble. But what about outside of Alexa? What about SimilarWeb?
SimilarWeb is a service like Alexa, and it provides data that covers the same general topics as Alexa. However, SimilarWeb can be very different than Alexa. This depends heavily on where they are getting their data from. For example (and I don’t know these specific details for a fact): If Alexa gets some of it’s data from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in NYC, that can be very different than if SimilarWeb bought their data from an ISP in MN. Or if one has a browser toolbar to get their data while the other weighs different datasets higher, the results can be different.
What is important to know about SimilarWeb and Alexa is that popular websites are generally much more accurate than smaller websites. Smaller websites, as a rule of thumb, are much harder to rank than popular ones. Because some of the websites I’m talking about are considered “small,” both Alexa and SimilarWeb can screw up royally when trying to come up with their estimates. Still, if we put them together, we can still get a good idea of where things are going.
There is a big reason I didn’t use SimilarWeb the first time. SimilarWeb only sells the full version (with the 3 years of data) to Enterprises, and does not even offer the option of a trial. It’s just “Contact Us” or use the free, 180 day data with no ability to directly compare websites. Still, I’ll try.
To help make the reference easier, here is the same graph from Alexa, but over a 180 day span (like SimilarWeb) instead of 3 years:
I was going to do a direct comparison, when I noticed an immediate flaw. See if you can spot it yourself.
The Alexa graph was for the Alexa ranking, which basically means that it believes this website is the #X most popular website in the world. The graph on SimilarWeb is for Total Visits, which is a very different metric and one that Alexa doesn’t try to keep track of nearly as much. Because the two graphs are for completely different criteria, the two cannot be directly compared.
What we can compare though, is the global rank for today. Unfortunately, this doesn’t give much for a trend, but at least it will be accurate.
|#Website||Alexa Global||SimilarWeb Global|
|newsaintthomas.com||#738,735||In Database, but N/A|
|fromrome.info||#346,064||Error – Not in database|
|akacatholic.com||#2,033,795||Error – Not in database|
|boniface-institute.com||N/A||Error – Not in database|
|patrickcoffin.net||N/A||Error – Not in database|
|patrickcoffin.media||#5,313,302||In Database, but N/A|
What can we glean from this? It’s clear that SimilarWeb has much less data than Alexa does, or at least makes less assumptions. And for everything except NovusOrdoWatch.com, it tends to place most websites much higher. However, based on the increased amount of “Error – Not in database” messages I had compared to Alexa, this means that SimilarWeb might have far fewer websites in-between levels, meaning the difference between rankings might actually not be so drastic when you consider all of the possible missing websites in between.
When you rank them, you get some surprisingly different and yet similar results:
|# of website||Alexa||SimilarWeb|
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why it is important to consult multiple sources if you want more accurate data. Remember though that the Alexa data in the last post was over a 3 year period, whereas this ranking is only valid as of today, 4/28/2020, because SimilarWeb won’t sell their data to anyone who isn’t an enterprise.
Do I trust SimilarWeb more? Some people do, but a BIG NO from me. SimilarWeb was missing data on many of the websites, and not just missing data: For four of the websites entered, it told me they didn’t even exist. And, for two more websites after that, it said they existed but there wasn’t enough data. Alexa always knew every website I entered existed, but told me there was not enough data for three of them.
Some of you might be seeing the above numbers and thinking that this must render my last article pointless. That is not the case. Both Alexa and SimilarWeb struggle tremendously when ranking these “small” websites (you have to remember that it is ranking hundreds of thousands of non-Catholic websites in the mix too, which is why Google is #1.) How does SimilarWeb compare to my results in Part 1?
- LifeSiteNews (#27,556)
- National Catholic Register (#93,531)
- Church Militant (#97,799)
- The Remnant (#285,071)
- OnePeterFive (#476,753)
- Taylor Marshall (#545,025)
- Fr. Z (#706,751)
- Canon212 (#2,262,969)
- LifeSiteNews (#29,680) – Pretty close to Alexa
- National Catholic Register (#42,355)
- Church Militant (#58,778)
- Fr. Z (#193,171)
- OnePeterFive (#263,572)
- Canon212 (#273,566)
- The Remnant (#286,052)
- Taylor Marshall (#353,319)
As you can see, they are both struggling to figure out who’s more popular. However, like I said before, I trust SimilarWeb’s “ranking” less than Alexa because SimilarWeb was completely unaware some of the websites I entered earlier even existed. I do think that some of the results from SimilarWeb are more logical though (see Canon212). All estimates, and less popular websites are less accurate. I wish I could truly compare SimilarWeb’s data more than this, but unless SimilarWeb opens up to individuals and makes a ranking history chart, it’s not happening.
Okay, enough moping about SimilarWeb’s lack of a free trial and public data compared to Alexa. What about mainstream Catholic news?
Well, that’s interesting. Many of them saw a decline as well, but not as severe as trad media did. Something is clearly wonky with America Magazine though, as that looks… wrong. Were they trying to manipulate Alexa? (I say this half in jest and half in seriousness). You can see it actually raises to the full height on the very far left. Weird.
- Leading up to October 2018, EWTN had a significant decline, but it’s recovering.
- Looks like many had a bit of a drop in October, but not catastrophic. And people are rising up again, and recovering, except for Crisis Magazine which is heading downward starting in March…
- It’s hard to see, but the National Schismatic Reporter rose quite a bit after October. It’s growth mirrors that of the liberal Commonweal and the more conservative CrisisMagazine, although Crisis’s growth didn’t last as long. Looks like it drove people to both sides of the argument (orthodox and heretical).
|Rank in [US]||27417||20782||11846||19914||10144||24779||148991||16889||86705||17166|
It’s kind of interesting how this graph lines up to what these websites actually do. Spirit Daily is an aggregator – they don’t publish articles, so they get little search traffic and lots of direct traffic. Right above them is Catholic Answers (catholic.com), which is almost all search traffic and little direct (which makes sense for what they do).
The bubble graph below is fascinating, and it lines up to exactly what one would expect.
There’s actually a few interesting correlations in this graph. Firstthings.com ties into Commonweal Magazine. Both have a liberal bent, and Mark Shea is a big First Things fan and has been known recently for his very liberal view of Catholicism. America Magazine is incredibly close, like directly next to, National Schismatic Reporter. Once again, due to the Zoom level, some websites that would be in their own bubble are forced together, like OnePeterFive next to Crisis Magazine and Church Militant. (The difference in bubbles is so great that it forces less-different websites together even if they would typically have a bubble of their own. Vatican.va is very different than Church Militant, but CM is less different than 1P5, so they go together even though they have different crowds).
Current rank is:
- Vatican.va (#11,404, down 1,171)
- EWTN (#37,607, up 16,058)
- Catholic Answers (#44,424, down 3,482)
- America Magazine (#53,593, down 13,002)
- National Schismatic Reporter (#58,650, down 8,352)
- New Advent (#65,506, up 8,693)
- National Catholic Register (#93,683, up 1,538) – Was at #93,531 in last article, went up 152 since yesterday
- Spirit Daily (#110,570, up 21,258)
- Crisis Magazine (#205,036, down 29,973)
- Commonweal (#272,106, up 175,523)
Commonweal, which you’ve probably never heard of is growing. And it absolutely must be stopped are we’ll have a third fishwrap on our hands. (Fishwrap is a term invented by Fr. Z to refer to National Catholic Reporter aka National Schismatic Reporter. Recently, America Magazine and Commonweal are writing like they are fishwrap too.)
Compare those global rankings with SimilarWeb for today, 4/28/2020:
- Vatican.va (#10,188)
- EWTN (#16,132)
- Catholic Answers (#19,557)
- America Magazine (#40,887)
- National Catholic Register (#42,355)
- National Schismatic Reporter (#60,557)
- New Advent (#72,181)
- Spirit Daily (#86,899)
- Crisis Magazine (#174,098)
- Commonweal (#249,901)
Notice that this time, only the National Catholic Register changed order between the two websites. Like I said, bigger websites are easier to rank then smaller ones like ours. Still, when did good people allow the National Schismatic Reporter to become so strong? It must be destroyed – and we need to keep a lookout on Commonweal. Alexa thinks it is rising, and even if that isn’t true, we need to keep a sharp eye on this new National Schismatic Reporter / America Magazine hybrid.
UPDATE: Semi-confirmed by Rorate Caeli.