After a few email conversations with Orel and Sax regarding the impact, if any, of the Dodgers' on-field performance on SoSG readership, I decided to take a closer look. And since you readers have consistantly demonstrated your keen understanding of cause-and-effect relationships (case in point: blaming Leonard Nimoy for the Dodgers' July), I thought I would share my analysis for your consideration and critique.
Hypothesis: The better the Dodgers' on-field performance, the more interest the team generates and thus the greater the traffic to Dodger blogs such as SoSG.
To test this hypothesis, I plotted SoSG's weekly pageload traffic (dotted lines) against the number of games over 0.500 (solid lines) for the entire year - both in-season and off-season. And I've done this for both this year (in blue) and last year (in red). This is what it looked like (through Aug 2):
Based on this graph, I made some observations/conclusions. Let's start with the obvious ones:
- Blog traffic is higher during the season vs the off-season. Duh.
- Traffic is highest during the playoffs. Duh again.
Now, to truly evaluate the validity of the original hypothesis, one would have to isolate the impact on traffic, if any, of the Dodgers' success from that due to other factors, such as organic readership growth, off-field Dodger news, or a one-off popular post. To do this perfectly is of course impossible, but with the concept in mind, here are my next levels of observation with my corresponding conclusion:
- Observation: There was a significant year-over-year traffic increase from January through March, before the season started. Comparing March 2010 YTD with the same period last year shows over an 80% increase. While some of this may be due to off-season news (McCourt divorce?), raised expectations, or other factors, we know it can't be due to actual team performance. And the magnitude of the increase suggests, to me, evidence of at least some organic readership growth*.
- Observation: During the first two months of the season, 2010 tracked almost identically to 2009 (including a big spike in mid-May of both years). This in spite of the Dodgers' decent-but-far-from-as-good on-field start this year versus last year. To me, this could be interpreted as supporting the idea of organic growth. That is, if one believes that traffic has some dependency on team performance, the fact that the team performed far worse during the first two months of 2010 than the previous year yet still held steady in readership could be chalked up to organic growth. That's what I conclude.
- Observation: Beginning in June, the 2010 Dodgers went into their tailspin, whereas the 2009 Dodgers continued to excel. During this period, 2010 readership fell below that of 2009 (incidentally, June 2010 was the first month that exhibited a year-over-year decrease in SoSG's brief history). I conclude that the Dodgers' June/July performance was so poor this year compared to 2009, that the difference overpowered any organic readership growth, causing a net readership decrease.
- Observation: During perhaps the worst stretch of the Dodgers' 2010 season (the recent 6-game losing streak), traffic actually showed a notable uptick. Not sure what caused this...I'm thinking the trade deadline. Or perhaps misery has an inflection point beyond which we cease to separate and instead reach out for company?
That's all I've got for now, though I'm sure some of you readers have some thoughts. Let's hear 'em!
*I also think there's another factor at play here I'll call the "hard-core vs casual fan phenomena (HCVCFP)." I posit that the year-over-year growth in off-season readership reflects the organic growth in hard-core Dodger fans - i.e., those who stick with the blogs whether in-season or off-season. Once the season begins, those hard-core fans are of course still there, but the casual fans also join, clouding the YoY organic growth.