On Nov. 18, a self-promotional advertisement appearing in the print edition of the Northern Virginia-based Politico.com made the case that the news website was the “top read,” both in print and online, for Washington, D.C. insiders and influencers. On Tuesday, Washington Post blogger Erik Wemple checked Politico’s math and declared it unequivocally fuzzy.
“More opinion leaders read POLITICO than any other Capitol Hill publication,” the November ad read. It also made the claim that Politico is “#1 online” and that “[c]ongressional opinion leaders visit POLITICO.com more than any other news website.”
Wemple found a faded, hard-to-read disclaimer buried in the newsprint, however, which seemed to qualify the news outlet’s claims. The disclaimer copy noted that Politico based its ad on “the 2011 Erdos and Morgan Study of Opinion Leaders in D.C. compared to Capitol Hill publications.”
The study, Wemple wrote, actually ranked on a scale of 0 to 100 percent Politico’s influence inside Washington, D.C. and found it was ranked at 27.8 percent. By comparison, CNN was at 34.8 percent, the New York Times was at 41.8 percent and the Washington Post — Wemple’s employer — led the pack at 62.4 percent.
The same study also contradicted Politico’s claim that more opinion leaders read its online content than any other news website.
“On this chart, Politico lands in 13th place, in front of the Web sites of such outlets as USA Today, National Geographic and the Journal of the American Medical Association but behind the sites of national outlets like the New York Times, CNN, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal,” Wemple wrote.
Erdos and Morgan did not immediately respond to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.
Wemple, however, was happy to talk. He told The Daily Caller that “the whole basis of [my] article was that there should have been less uptake. It should have dealt with the simple easy good news from the study, and not overreach.”
“There’s always some fine print, and this is just a classic case of that,” he cautioned. ”I think it does get at where Politico is, betwixt and between an inside-the-beltway publication and a national publication.”
The Daily Caller reported on Friday that interest in Politico.com is declining outside of the Washington, D.C. political bubble, and that its overall ability to attract consumers is on the wane. Politico’s own “current” traffic statistics reflecting numbers of unique Web visitors, as stated recently in the American Journalism Review, were similarly lacking comparable metrics against which readers could judge them.
Politico did not respond to the Washington Post’s requests for comment on its article. When Politico spoke to The Daily Caller about the reported unique visitor traffic that TheDC called into question last week, Politico representatives said, “We stand by our numbers.”