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December 26, 2008

Quantcast Shows Which Services Rely Most on Their "Addicts"

If you're like me, you have a list of sites you visit just about every day, without fail, and some may even be visited multiple times a day. Whether you're a frequent visitor of Google News, CNN.com, Facebook or Twitter, site and service owners know they can count on some consistent traffic from their regular visitors, in addition to natural traffic from external links or search engines. Web traffic measurement company Quantcast tracks much of this data, and has even gone so far as to categorize the most frequent visitors to some sites as "addicts", defined as those who visit a site more than 30 times in a single month - the "hardcore segment of a site's audience". As it turns out, some popular Web services rely on these so-called "addicts" for more than a third of their total traffic, and at major social networks, that number is as high as two-thirds of all visits.


Quantcast Defines Addicts as 30 or More Visits a Month

While Quantcast isn't as well-known as its competitors, including Compete.com and Alexa, it is making an attempt to track site and service's traffic, giving significant demographic information for sites, and helping advertisers try and find a perfect match. While the service doesn't claim to have sufficient visitor detail for all sites, many of the largest are now being directly tracked, meaning the data is extremely accurate.

This means that Quantcast isn't simply returning a site's total visits in a given timeframe, as well as whether traffic is increasing or decreasing, but what its users look like, and if they're addicts, regulars, or just passing through.

Some notable data shows:


FriendFeed Trails Twitter In Less-Addicted Regular Users

Twitter.com: 1% of all users are addicts, who drive upwards of 34% of total site traffic. An additional 25% of users are regulars, who deliver 40% of site traffic, meaning that the remaining 26% of traffic comes from the 74% of users who are merely passing by.

FriendFeed.com: Less than 1% of all users are addicts, who deliver 25% of all total site traffic. An additional 4% of users are regulars, who deliver 8% of site traffic. Fully 96% of users are seen as just passing by, accounting for 67% of visits.

This data tells me that FriendFeed has a real problem in converting casual visitors and making them regulars. You are either one of the "addicted", or you're probably not using the site at all. There's practically no middle ground. Twitter also clearly has its addicts, but it also has a healthy middle base of users who check in less regularly.


Facebook and MySpace Primarily Cater to Their Addicted Base

Facebook.com: 11% of all users are addicts, who drive 62% of all site traffic. A robust 53% of users are regular visitors, who give 34% of visits, and the remaining 36% of passers-by only deliver 4% of traffic.

MySpace.com: 20% of the users are addicts, providing 74% of all site traffic. Another 58% are regulars, giving 24% of visits, while the 22% of passers-by are only giving 2% of traffic.

That "addicted" users of Facebook and MySpace provide greater than two-thirds of page views is no surprise. Instead of being engaged on the "real Internet", many users log in to their walled gardens and stay there for some time. And there's not much benefit to being a passer-by for either service, so that doesn't deliver much traffic at all.

Outside of the social networking and lifestreaming spaces, you can look up virtually any Web site and see how much they rely on addicts, provided Quantcast has the data. Quantcast says only 9% of eBay users are addicted, giving 61% of visits. 16% of DrudgeReport visitors are addicted, providing 78% of visits. 2% of LinkedIn users are addicted, giving 36% of visits.

There's practically a catch-22 in business when it comes to appeasing your addicts. Lose your most ardent users, and you could find them to be your most vocal detractors, as they feel looked over and spurned. But if you appeal too much to your most addicted users, you could overlook some major gaps in your product that prevent it crossing over to the mainstream. How can you convert those casual passers-by into regular users or even addicts? Therein lies the struggle of growth. Quantcast gives us a glimpse into how many sites are faring in this battle. The question is, can the data change behavior?