[Update: When I made this post, I thought I understood web traffic analytics and believed the numbers I see online. Since adopting Google Analytics, I’ve seen firsthand how full of crap these Alexa numbers are, etc. I failed to listen to Jonathon at Beermapping among others. While I was glad to see that there was this much interest in a post, I also regret portraying it as one side vs. the other. I thought that as an unbiased third-party, I could provide some interesting analysis. What we really need to do is to figure out how to get the two sides on the same page and fight for craft beer. And we do have a big fight ahead of us.]
A quick and dirty web traffic comparison of the two most beloved beer sites on the internet. Keep in mind that the tools discussed here can be used to learn more about your other favorite sites. If any of this appears confusing, just skip down to the summary at the bottom. Here’s a quick profile of Beer Advocate and RateBeer:
Site started: May 31, 2000
Founded by: Todd and Jason Alstrom, Cambridge, MA
Beers in database: 40,687
Reviews in database: 606,663
Site started: March 8, 2000
Founded by: Bill Buchanan
Beers in database: 81,005
Reviews in database: 1,664,306
There are three sites that come to mind when discussing traffic rankings (for me, at least): 1) Alexa, 2) Compete, and 3) Quantcast. I won’t go into it too much here but for legitimate reasons, there is controversy surrounding internet stats because they’re inherently unreliable. But for purposes of our comparison, the traffic sites work OK. Without further ado, let’s look at Alexa, perhaps the most well-known web traffic stats service:
3 month avg. ranking: 23,776
3 month avg. ranking: 32,011
Both sites appear to be generally trending upward though Beer Advocate has separated itself in the past few months.
Monthly rank: 15,166
Monthly people count: 124,393
Monthly rank: 24,017
Monthly people count: 77,765
Note that ‘people count’ probably refers to unique IP addresses. So the actual number of people using the site is probably much less than these numbers indicate when factoring home AND work usage. The graph below paints a different story than Alexa does, showing that traffic has plateaued for both sites though Beer Advocate is still showing more activity here.
The image below shows daily unique visits since Quantcast doesn’t show traffic graphs. It appears that these visits are actually dropping though traffic appears to be level or at a slight incline according to Alexa and Compete.
If you’re not snoring away already, let’s look at one more thing at Quantcast: demographics. More specifically, what makes up the monthly traffic at the two sites? Below is a chart showing that very few users make up the lion’s share of traffic at Ratebeer.com. If we take 3% of the unique visits per month, we come to 1600 unique (IP addresses). Say that a little more than 1/3 of them access it from either multiple computers or at work, etc. So we have 1000 actual people accounting for 67% of the total visits per month or about 250,000.
That is extreme. Beer Advocate is not quite as extreme but still more drastic than the norm. Type in Dead.net, the official site for the Grateful Dead (another cult following similar in nature to beer enthusiasts), into Quantcast stats and you won’t find anything near the level of loyalty of these two sites. That’s great if you’re looking to sell something (like a premium membership or a magazine). Whether it’s good for site growth is another discussion.
There is a ton more that can be discussed looking deeper into Quantcast’s demographics including income, ethnicity, etc. but we’ll stop there and summarize what we’ve learned.
If anything, these figures raise more questions. Why would unique uses be slipping? Where else might the regular and fringe users be going? There are a number of possibilities. Without giving it much thought, I might hypothesize that it boils down to homebrewing. The niche is growing and homebrewing boards like homebrewtalk.com and northernbrewer.com boast over 20,000 and 11,000 board members, respectively. As commercial beers become more expensive and more people decide to experiment with or are exposed to homebrewing, one would think that trend will continue. That begs the question: how viable will the two sites be if their core users leave the commercial niche and flock to the homebrewing niche?
What do you think? Post a comment or bring this discussion to one of the boards!