Revisiting Audience Data for Fight Aging!: Long Tails and Bear Consumption

Today I thought it time to one again say something about the Fight Aging! audience data. I am occasionally asked about this, so I'm given to think that some of the other folk who run similar sites may benefit from this very infrequent series of posts. Other regular readers may take the information below as a data point to add to what is known about the size and scope of the longevity science community: researchers, advocates, and supporters. As is always the case, I should note that Fight Aging! is a niche concern: any hard science site is already a low traffic venture, and this is even more the case for specialist hard science sites that focus on small fields. Much as I would like to say otherwise, longevity science is a small subfield of aging research, which in turn is a small field within the medical life sciences, tiny in comparison to many of its peers. Neither human longevity nor aging research in general have the funding or attention they merit, given the possibilities for rejuvenation biotechnology that lie ahead and the level of harm caused by aging. We'd all like to see this change - and it needs to change if we are going to anything other than age to death like our ancestors did.

It has been a little over two years since I last wrote anything on this topic of site audience data. That happened right after the present site design was first deployed and the Longevity Meme merged into Fight Aging!, so it is a useful little exercise to look back and see what has changed since then. Fight Aging! has remained fairly constant over that time, with only minor improvements to the showcasing of important content and readability, but this present design is far more attractive and professional than the wall of green and text that preceded it. Did that have a beneficial effect? I think so, but see below.

Bear Consumption

"Bear consumption" is an ambiguous phrase in the context of an internet search. I know what folk are getting if they click through to the page in the Fight Aging! archives that, against all common sense given the far better listings below it, is at the top of Google's rankings for "bear consumption." I have no idea what they might be after, however. Misspelled beer? Bears afflicted with Victorian era diseases? Bear food or bears as food? We may never know for sure.

Any sort of inspection of website analytics turns up things of this nature; little oddities and mysteries for which no-one can really justify the time required to obtain a deeper understanding and certain answers. You don't even have to be the owner of the website in question these days to look at this sort of data. Services like Alexa have expanded out to provide a public record of this and other interesting information about any given website above a certain level of traffic. If you browse the Alexa entry for Fight Aging! you can see the whole bear consumption thing for yourself under the search analytics tab.

Query% of Search Traffic
what is anti aging5.45
werner syndrome research4.90
what is wealth4.81
fight aging3.46
bear consumption3.27

Though one has to take this data with a grain of salt for smaller sites like this Fight Aging! - artifacts are common, and seeking corroboration with other sources is a good plan. For example, the audience breakdown provided by Alexa suggests that a large portion of the readership are men over the age of 45 who don't have children. That seems a pretty narrow and unlikely demographic, all things considered, even given that each of those line items could be argued as plausible on its own given the topic of this site.

Comparing 2013 With 2011

Based on the data from Alexa (which is improving) and the data from Google Analytics (which is getting steadily worse), I can put forward the following items.

DataQ1 2011Q2 2013
Alexa Ranking (Global)470,610360,633
Alexa Ranking (US)154,484108,038
Daily visits~700~1200
Average Time Spent on Page2:384:16
Average Bounce Rate76.6%79.4%

I am inclined to ascribe this growth in traffic, which has occurred in a very steady and consistent manner these past two years, to the improved site design. That seems to be the one obvious line item separating the fairly consistent traffic of the years prior to the present state of affairs. Judging a book by its cover is a going concern, it seems, and the same content in a more attractive package is apparently much better at holding attention. That said, it's very hard to determine whether or not this translates into anything meaningful in terms of the things I care about - which is to say engagement with the SENS vision for rejuvenation biotechnology, funds given to longevity science and related research initiatives, and so forth. This is ever the challenge of a web site; you have lots of numbers at your fingertips but they'll never tell you what you want to know. There is always that slippery and wishful step of interpretation.

The number of newsletter subscribers remains steady at a little over 3000, the same as it was two years ago, which is another reason for questioning the meaning of increased traffic, and the site presently holds 9500 posts versus the 7600 back then.

The Longest of Long Tails

Closing in on ten thousand web pages, without counting the archives, makes for a very big website for a single webmaster. I'm still finding the occasional orphan page left over from the Longevity Meme merge two years ago, disconnected from the site by some quirk of the page name that was allowed in the old host but not in this one - one can only be caring in the aggregate, as they say.

Traffic in a site like this follows a long tail distribution, the top of which is shown below:

Page% Page Views
Home page23.01
Calorie Restriction Explained2.14
Stem Cells, Regenerative Medicine, and Tissue Engineering1.67
News1.67
Take Action!1.21
Articles1.13
Introducing Fight Aging!1.12
An Update on Myostatin Research1.12
This Wonderful Lengthening of Lifespan1.03

You can look back to the Q1 2011 post to see how this compares; I'm pleased to have successfully directed more visitors to the Take Action! and Introduction pages - since one of the principal goals of this website is to convey the information on those pages - but here I mainly want to point out the scale of the fall-off in traffic after the home page. In fact the top 100 most viewed pages at Fight Aging! only account for 35% of the total traffic, with the home page accounting for most of that. This is what you might expect for a blog that updates a couple of times a day. Most of the traffic to Fight Aging! is scatted across the long tail of its nearly ten thousand posts, a couple of views here, a couple there.

From my viewpoint this manifests as a slow trickle of comments and emails relating to old, old posts. For the most part these are from people, often patients and their relatives, interested in specific medical technologies that are working their way through the labs and which I have linked to or discussed. They are often enough looking for hope and miracles, but I can do little but point them to the clinical trial sites or guides on how to research available therapies more effectively. It's a small and ongoing reminder of what is at stake here: sooner or later we'll all be that unfortunate person who will die or become crippled and frail without the benefit of medical technology that is in the labs and tantalizingly close - but for most of us it will be the general progression of aging that does this.

The only way out of this hole we find ourselves in is faster progress towards the rejuvenation biotechnologies of the SENS vision or other repair-based approaches to the damage of aging, and the best way to obtain that faster progress at this point is through more effective fundraising.

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