Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hiltzik: the resolution?:

From the latest exchange with Michael Hiltzik, it appears the LA Times business columnist is now claiming he was not seriously contending that conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt's numbers are declining. At least, that's what Hiltzik appears to be saying in his latest e-mail to me.

We both agree that Hewitt's blog traffic has declined in February and March from its January level. The disagreement is whether that slice of time is enough to be an indication of a long-term decline or just a regular fluctuation. And Hiltzik has the burden of proof.

In his latest e-mail, Hiltzik said he was just taking Hewitt's "absurd" analysis of the LA Times circulation and applying the same faulty reasoning to Hewitt's blog traffic, just to show how ridiculous it was.

"Is this a nonsensical way to analyze website traffic--or newspaper circulation? OF COURSE IT IS. That's my point!", Hiltzik wrote.

Trouble is, Hiltzik's post didn't say that. It strongly implied Hewitt was in trouble:

"So I think it's worthwhile to put our results in perspective by asking the question: How is Hugh's blog doing? Luckily, he has provided us with the answer, thanks to Site Meter, a program he uses to track visits to his website. I've been keeping an eye on Hugh's Site Meter, which appears on his home page, since early February. All I can say to him is: Uh-oh."
. . .
"I'm sure Hewitt has a simple explanation for the evaporation of one-fifth of his visitors, and one that has nothing to do with how his peculiar brand of reactionary conservatism has become increasingly marginalized on the fringes of American political life. Perhaps the cluttered ugliness of his site design turns people off. Maybe it's his sedulous devotion, like a sucking remora fish, to the imploding George W. Bush. Maybe it's his otiose prose."

Or maybe the "evaporation" of Hewitt's audience was based on an "absurd" analysis that ignored most of the pertinent data.

Hiltzik further said in his email that he had allowed for the possibility that the decline in Hewitt's audience "might be a blip, might recover, etc. etc."

The trouble with that defense is that Hiltzik ignored the data that would have shown that Hewitt's traffic has indeed fluctuated. This data, stretching back to last July, is freely available on Site Meter. It puts the February-March decline in an entirely different perspective.

In other words, Hiltzik did exactly what I've faulted Hewitt for -- cherry-picking data.

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