After nearly three days of silence, a California company that ranks the popularity of Internet websites has responded to charges of bias against watchdog news-media sites.
In an unsigned official statement sent through Facebook, San Francisco-based Alexa Internet Inc., which is a subsidiary of Amazon, said it has not changed its methodology and stands by the accuracy of its rankings.
The response comes after two reports by WND showing that Alexa’s most recent rankings for July through September appeared skewed in favor of websites such as MSNBC, NPR, ThinkProgress and Daily Kos and against well-known watchdog sites such as the Drudge Report, Breitbart News, Fox News and WND.
Alexa’s ranking are important because they are considered one of the few third-party sources of data on website traffic, which can be used by advertisers deciding where to place their ads.
Below is the full text of the statement Alexa sent to WND:
“Thanks for your inquiry. Below is some additional information about how Alexa calculates ranks. We have not recently changed our methodology.
“The Alexa ranks are updated daily. Most Global and Country ranks are based on our panel of toolbar users which is a sample of all internet users; specifically the Global rank is based on unique visitor and page-view metrics from the past 3 months and the Country ranks are based on metrics from the past 1 month. If a site’s metrics are Certified the Global and Country ranks can be based on Certified Site Metrics from the past 3 months and from the past month, respectively. The Certified Site Metrics feature is available on all of our paid subscription plans: http://www.alexa.com/plans
“The rank graph at the top of the Site Overview page shows a site’s rank smoothed over the trailing 30 days, making it less meaningful than the 3 month rank. The smoothed rank plot points on the graph tend to fluctuate more often than the 3 month global rank that appears at the top of Site Overview pages.”
The statement then directed WND to the FAQs page on Alexa’s website and to another page that describes its methodology and stresses that the methodology is completely impartial in the way it measures website traffic.
“Alexa is an impartial measurement service. Our data is generated automatically for the over 20 million websites that we measure, and our ranking methods remain constant. We still use a combination of unique visitors and pageviews in order to calculate ranks for sites.
“However, over time the composition and size of our data panel does change. Our data panel is the sample of global internet traffic that is used to calculate Alexa ranks and estimate non-Certified metrics.
“We recently had a significant increase in the size of our data panel, which is why you might be seeing changes in your site’s ranks.”
Many watchdog-oriented websites have noticed that the latest rankings by Alexa have seemed to be anything but impartial, showing striking drops in popularity across the board for the biggest names in watchdog Internet journalism including the Drudge Report, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, Newsmax, the Blaze, Infowars, PJ Media, CNSNews, Townhall.com, Activist Post and WND.
Meanwhile Alexa’s data showed increasing popularity over the same time-frame for pro-government websites like the Daily Kos, Media Matters, MSNBC, NPR, Democracy Now! and ThinkProgress.
WND’s reports on the appearance of a bias prompted a backlash from conservative media with rebukes from top officials at Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, Infowars and several other smaller website operators.
And the complaints keep coming in.
The latest to weigh in is the vice president of business and culture for the Washington, D.C.-based Media Research Center, which conducts research on media bias and also established CNSNews.com, one of the watchdog news agencies shown as loosing popularity in Alexa’s recent rankings.
“It’s essential that new media companies like Alexa take a neutral stance on media outlets. The latest data seem to indicate the company is spinning the results,” said Dan Gainor, vice president with Media Research Center. “Conservatives have had to endure bias in the old-media world. If new media companies – Alexa, Facebook, Twitter and others – won’t treat the right fairly, those companies will soon see how that damages their credibility and market share.”