Compare at your peril

13 July 2006

Shame on Nielsen/Netratings for uttering the comparison that must never be made. Robert Scoble (having gone podcast-happy) and Jon Watson, another podcast blogger, for having the temerity to point to two small numbers being quite similar. Which is the kind of thing small numbers have had to endure for centuries. Somehow this has turned into a Techmeme-assisted blog flurry.

Although the press release that caused the kerfuffle did have some other problems, Watson steered straight past those and claimed to be "embarrassed for Nielsen" for saying that the number of people who download podcasts, as a percentage of US Internet users and not necessarily podcast listeners, is not far from the proportion of Internet users who are bloggers or people who use Internet dating services. Watson ignored the lonely hearts and took Nielsen to task for somehow confusing bloggers with podcast users. Err...right.

"I very clearly see a comparison of two unlike activities here," Watson wrote in his comments to Brian Sullivan, who patiently pointed out that Watson might be reading a little too much into the Nielsen release. It was the specialist site Podcasting News, to which Watson linked, that did the damage, it seems. The site wrote a headline claiming that podcasting is bigger than blogging (but not the Beatles or Jesus). What the site maybe should have pointed out instead, although that goes against the podcasting-is-big thesis, is that all of the things that were compared in the first couple of lines are very much minority interests. Around 5 per cent of US Internet users is a small minority in my book.

Many bloggers say the most important thing in blogging is to listen. I'd say reading is the skill some really need to master.