Techdirt 2023: The Stats


from the closing-the-books dept

Every year a little after New Years, I do a post about the previous year of Techdirt traffic and comments, looking at what people were interested in, what commenters were highly rated, etc. I know most sites put this out towards the end of the year, but I remain a purist and wait until after the new year begins to get all the stats. I usually try to do it a few days after New Year’s, but it’s a long process, and this year I’ve had a very busy start to the year (though, looking back, last year’s also came out about two weeks after the new year started as well).

If you’d like to see the details from previous years, here they are: 2022, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011 and 2010.

Two years ago was the first year we did it without Google Analytics (which we ditched as we tried to remove as much Google as possible from the site). And last year it was a bit trickier, because in early 2022 we had switched from our old, homemade platform to WordPress, and that mucked up some of the stat tracking, and left me trying to piece things together.

This time we have a full year of data again, coming from two separate tools: Automattic’s JetPack and Plausible, which provides very simple, privacy-protective analytics data without feeding it into an advertising juggernaut.

As is pretty typical, about 72% of our traffic comes from the US, followed by Canada, the UK, Australia, Germany, India, the Netherlands, France, New Zealand, and Sweden. The differences from last year are marginal, but Germany was behind India last year, and Brazil was in the top ten (at spot 10) while New Zealand was not. Brazil was 15th this year, trailing Ireland, Spain, Italy and Switzerland. The top Asian country was Japan (one spot behind Brazil) followed by Singapore (though Japan and Singapore had nearly identical traffic).

In 2023 we published 2,007 posts (a tiny bit down from last year, but close) and garnered 61,056 comments on those posts, an average of 30.4 comments per post. Given commenting rates, it’s likely that this year we’ll pass 2 million total comments (!!!) somewhere in the summertime.

Of course, even as we published fewer posts, they got longer. Our average words per post was 798, up from 774 the year before. So even as we published fewer overall posts, we published more words. Just for fun, check out this chart:


Already, for 2024, we’re averaging (well) over 800 words per post, though who knows if that will stick. But, still, most people don’t realize for the first few years I though all Techdirt posts should only be one paragraph. That… changed.

In terms of traffic referrals, I always highlight that, by far, the largest source of our traffic is direct traffic. We never played social media games, trying to goose our traffic that way. And while that maybe put us behind others in overall traffic, our readers tend to be more loyal, rather than drive-by. It looks like approximately 50% of our traffic was direct, with no referrals. Google search sent about 17% of our traffic, and Google News drove about 6%.

After that, we did still receive about 5% of our traffic from ExTwitter even though we don’t post there any more (either personally or from the Techdirt account, since Elon took away the API to do so). Reddit and Smartnews each drove about the same level of traffic as ExTwitter. I honestly still don’t know what Smartnews is, but every year it sends a decent amount of traffic. Same with the “NewsBreakApp.” No idea, but thanks for the traffic.

This year, Flipboard also sent a decent amount of traffic, which is cool, given how that company is embracing the fediverse (something I’m hoping to write more about soon). After that we had HackerNews, Bluesky (my main daily social media app, which is getting close to fully opening to the public) and even Substack. Fark and LinkedIn both also sent a surprising amount of traffic.

Traffic from other publications had Ars Technica leading the way, followed by The Verge, Naked Capitalism, Daring Fireball, Kottke, Techmeme, and AboveTheLaw. I guess Techmeme is more of an aggregator, but it feels appropriate here. I like to see some of these oldschool blogs (Daring Fireball! Kottke!) in the list.

In search, after Google, DuckDuckGo and Bing were next in the list, but there were large periods of last year where Techdirt was missing from both Bing and DuckDuckGo (it looks like we’re currently back).

It’s been kinda crazy to watch the transition to mobile over the years (and we long resisted having a mobile-friendly site). But in 2023, it looks like 69.3% of Techdirt’s traffic was from mobile devices (phones or tablets), and just 30.7% from computers (desktop or laptop).

In terms of OS, 37.7% were Android, 31.6% were iOS. 18.1% were Windows. 10.7% were Mac. Linux was at 1.6% (though I just set up my laptop to dual boot into Linux, so we’ll see if I can bump that number up this year). ChromeOS rounds it out at just 0.5%.

Okay, onto the lists!

Top Ten Stories, by unique pageviews, on Techdirt for 2023:

  1. Social Engineering Meets Hacking With Prompt Hacking
  2. Mehdi Hasan Dismantles The Entire Foundation Of The Twitter Files As Matt Taibbi Stumbles To Defend It
  3. Google Promises Unlimited Cloud Storage; Then Cancels Plan; Then Tells Journalist His Life’s Work Will Be Deleted Without Enough Time To Transfer The Data
  4. It Took Just Four Days From Elon Gleefully Admitting He’d Unplugged A Server Rack For Twitter To Have A Major Outage
  5. Reddit CEO Triples Down, Insults Protesters, Whines About Not Making Enough Money From Reddit Users
  6. Elon May Have Accidentally Revealed How ExTwitter Usage Has Dropped Massively Since His Takeover
  7. After Matt Taibbi Leaves Twitter, Elon Musk ‘Shadow Bans’ All Of Taibbi’s Tweets, Including The Twitter Files
  8. Netflix’s Password Sharing Cash Grab Finally Arrives In The States
  9. Italy Decides That Leonardo da Vinci’s 500 Year Old Works Are Not In The Public Domain
  10. Arizona Government Thinks It Should Be Able To Decide What You Wear And When

I’d say there’s a good mix of expected ones and surprises in there. It does seem like “companies behaving badly” often gets a fair bit of attention from readers…

2023’s Top Ten Stories, by comment volume:

  1. Elon Musk Throws A Shit Fit And Fires Engineer Because Not Enough People Are Viewing His Personal Tweets (470 comments)
  2. f You Want A Summary Of All The Ways In Which Elon Is A Hypocrite In How He’s Running Twitter, Watch This Video (414 comments)
  3. GOP Releases Bill To Stop Administration From Pressuring Social Media Companies… And, It’s Actually Not Totally Crazy? (411 comments)
  4. Just Because Certain Crimes Are Going Viral Doesn’t Mean Crime Rates Are Increasing (393 comments)
  5. Possible Reasons Why YouTube Has Given Up Trying To Police 2020 Election Misinfo (381 comments)
  6. Court Makes It Clear: Government Submissions To Twitter Flagging Program Do Not Violate The 1st Amendment (377 comments)
  7. In The Last Six Months Techdirt’s Antispam Algorithm Has Stopped Over A Million Spam .; Should We Lose 230 Protections For That?(375 comments)
  8. Substack Turns On Its ‘Nazis Welcome!’ Sign (359 comments)
  9. Elon Musk’s Commitment To Only Pretending To Be Committed To Free Speech Still Stands (341 comments)
  10. Hey Elon: Where Are The Twitter Files On Kevin McCarthy Pressuring Twitter To Reinstate MTG? (340 comments)

Also noticing a bit of a pattern here (and you might too if you went into the comments). We sure do have some extremely committed commenters.

And… once again, as we point out almost every year, there’s no overlap between the highest trafficked posts and the posts with the most comments, even if there’s a common theme in both lists.

Now, to the personal commenter leaderboards:

2023 Top Commenters, by comment volume:

  1. Stephen T. Stone 3492 comments
  2. That One Guy 1721 comments
  3. Toom1275 1678 comments
  4. bhull242 1281 comments
  5. PaulT 1086 comments
  6. LostInLoDOS 922 comments
  7. Strawb 727 comments
  8. Samuel Abram 706 comments
  9. Mike Masnick 524 comments
  10. Anathema Device 508 comments

Some expected names on that list and a few new ones as well. Second year in a row that Stephen T. Stone was atop the list, though he’s been hovering around the top 3 for years. But this is also the second year in a row that he posted nearly double the comments of the second place finisher, effectively looping the pack. Stephen, you could create another account, split your posts, and you’d still be in spots one and two…

Top 10 Most Insightful Commenters, based on how many times they got the lightbulb icon:

Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the icon

  1. Stephen T. Stone 702 comments (20.1%)
  2. That One Guy 497 comments (28.9%)
  3. PaulT 199 comments (18.3%)
  4. Mike Masnick 191 comments (36%)
  5. Strawb 179 comments (24.6%)
  6. Toom1275 141 comments (8.4%)
  7. bhull242 139 comments (10.9%)
  8. Thad 96 comments (25%)
  9. JMT 83 comments (20.7%)
  10. That Anonymous Coward 75 comments (14.9%)

Same top three as last year, and the same top three (in varying orders) as it has been for years. It’s great to have a crew of reliable, insightful commenters here.

Top 10 Funniest Commenters, based on how many times they got the laughing face icon:

Parentheses shows what percentage of their comments got the icon

  1. Stephen T. Stone 124 comments (3.6%)
  2. That One Guy 76 comments (4.4%)
  3. Thad 42 comments (10.9%)
  4. Strawb 34 comments (4.7%)
  5. Toom1275 33 comments (2.0%)
  6. Anathema Device 26 comments (5.1%)
  7. Cat_Daddy 21 comments (11.3%)
  8. That Anonymous Coward 21 comments (4.2%)
  9. Samuel Abram 20 comments (2.8%)
  10. Bloof 12 comments (6.6%)

Well done. As always, it’s harder to get the funny icon than the insightful one (perhaps we should fiddle with the thresholds?) But if you’re even remotely funny, it seems like it should be possible to get on this list next year.

Also, a shoutout to Thad for having a consistently high percentage of comments getting either insightful or funny, or both. Pretty impressive.

And, with that, the 2023 books are officially closed. 2024 is just a couple weeks in and I see that the competition is already pretty fierce for next year’s lists…

Filed Under: 2023, comments, stats, techdirt

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