NEW YORK -- The Washington Post is pushing back against a much-discussed new study that claims the Drudge Report website drives 15 percent of the paper's online traffic.
A Post spokeswoman told The Huffington Post that the number cited in a May 9 study released by Pew's Project for Excellence in Journal "is inaccurate."
"Over the last three months (February - April 2011), referrals from drudgereport.com have accounted for 2.5 percent of total [traffic], nowhere near 15 percent," the spokeswoman wrote in an email. The Post relied on data from web analytics company, Omniture. [See Update]
But PEJ deputy director Amy Mitchell, in an email, said her organization used Nielsen data averages for the months of March, June and September 2010.
That could be one reason for the disparity; companies measuring web traffic -- which employ their own methodology -- often come up with wildly varying results.
The Post provided numbers for the percentage of WashingtonPost.com traffic coming directly from The Drudge Report from three other companies during the period PEJ studied. According to the paper, Omniture recorded 7.1 percent (March 2010), 8.7 percent (June 2010) and 5.9 percent (Sept. 2010). Hitwise had 8.3 percent (March), 7.8 percent (June), and 6.8 percent (Sept.). And comScore came up with 5.0 percent (March), 5.4 percent (June), 3.2 percent (Sept.).
The findings show that the Drudge Report, depending on the month, can drive a good -- or great -- amount of traffic to washingtonpost.com. However, the other three companies didn't produce any numbers in the double digits, with comScore only recording about a third of the traffic reported by Nielsen. Still, PEJ stands by the thrust of its study touting Drudge's influence.
"It is not disputed that a posting on the Drudge Report typically results in a significant increase in traffic for a news site," Mitchell said. "So no one is disputing the broad patterns that the study is trying to get at. The difficulties come when trying to compare the metrics from one media rating agency with those from another."
The PEJ study has gotten a significant amount of pick-up over the past week. The Huffington Post cited the study at the end of a May 12 report on Matt Drudge hiring journalist Charles Hurt -- the second veteran political writer to join the powerful news aggregator's small staff in the past year.
New York Times media columnist David Carr brought additional attention to Pew's findings by pegging his Monday "Media Equation" column to the study. Carr also suggested that anyone assuming the right-leaning Drudge Report's "huge traffic numbers are a byproduct of an ideologically motivated readership, consider that 15 percent of the traffic at WashingtonPost.com, which is not exactly a hotbed of Tea Party foment, comes from The Drudge Report."
Raju Narisetti, managing editor of the Post, first questioned the traffic numbers on Twitter late Sunday night, shortly after Carr's piece appeared online.
UPDATE: The Post provided numbers measuring the percentage of WashingtonPost.com traffic from The Drudge Report and not the percentage of all referrals to its website. Two sentences were changed to reflect this inaccuracy.