The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same: Online Audiences and the Paradox of Web Traffic

Dr Matthew Hindman

Duration: 00:43:44

Recorded: 4 March 2009

This webcast is also available on iTunes


Many areas of Internet scholarship make strong - and often erroneous - assumptions about patterns of Web traffic. Still, there has been little comprehensive research on how online audiences are distributed, and even less work on how site traffic changes over time.

Using three years of daily Web traffic data, and new models adapted from financial mathematics, Matthew Hindman examines large-scale variation in Web traffic. These data show that Web traffic is highly heteroskedastic, with smaller sites having orders of magnitude more variation in the relative number of visitors they receive.

These consistent patterns allow us to provide reasonable estimates of how likely it is Google will still be the most visited US site a year from now, for example, or the odds that a new site currently ranked 50 overall will break into the top 10. Despite constant churn in online traffic, the audience distribution for both the overall Web and for subcategories of content is extremely stable, limiting the number of prominent outlets.

These results challenge many accepted notions about online life. In particular, the talk will discuss what these traffic patterns mean for the openness the online public sphere.

This public lecture was the opening event for a two-day workshop 'Internet and Democracy: Lessons Learnt and Future Directions'.

About the speakers

  • Dr Matthew Hindman

    Assistant Professor of Political Science at Arizona State University

    Matthew Hindman is an Assistant Professor of political science at Arizona State University. His research interests include American politics, political communication, and (especially) online politics.

    Further information on Dr Matthew Hindman

Related events

Related news

  • New Journal: Policy and Internet

    18 February 2009 Oxford Internet Institute

    The OII, the Policy Studies Organization (PSO), and BEPress announce 'Policy and Internet', the first major peer-reviewed multi-disciplinary journal investigating the implications of the Internet and associated technologies for public policy

This lecture was co-organised with the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, in partnership with the Journal Policy and Internet.


  • Berkman Center for Internet & Society
  • Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism