The below contains a number of questions, and few answers.
A few weeks ago, a chunk of my Saturday was taken over by reading this pamphlet, the bulk of which is a well written article, with a sensationalist top level headline about the BNP.
Looking below the headline, we can check alexa (which they didn’t use) and find that the traffic matches what they reported from their (commercial) sources:
It’s worth noting here that the BNP push Alexa on their homepage (as it makes them look good by comparison), so their alexa stats are likely to be inflated against most sites; but the paper did not use the alexa stats for their claim on traffic, possibly for this reason, but they do match.
So the pamphlet headline call is accurate, but lets add in two other major UK political sites:
So while traffic levels are high, it’s not necessarily more than mainstream sites.
While the reasons for this are many and various, one hypothesis is that you can get the “mainstream” party interest from the normal media; but the commentary from the BNP doesn’t make it into the BBC 9 O’Clock news. One question that is raised from that, however, is who are these people looking at the site.?
Let’s look back at that graph, and look specifically at the last week in December – Christmas. When most people are stuffing themselves with turkey, and traffic to every internet site that doesn’t have anything to do with shopping (or porn) nosedives, the BNP traffic stays constant. There’s no dip (the previous week seems to be above average).
So who is looking at the BNP site according to alexa? It’s the same people who are likely to be looking at the site for the other 51 weeks of the year. And checking it daily (or more), and, in the words of a friend, like “junkies hitting the crackpipe” for their take on that day’s news, whatever the news or whatever’s happening.
While you will generally get the Labour/Government view, and that of the Tories and Lib Dems in your newspaper or on the TV news, it’s comparatively rare to get the BNP take on the issue of the day. As a result, those who actively want that information will seek it out from their website. Looking at the site, the BNP post comment and news multiple times a day, every day (numbers when I first looked at this on a weekend were “4 news items on BNP site for today, 6 yesterday; libdems: only 8 yesterday; nothing in last week from tories; labour doesn’t do dated news”). There’s simply more there – which is in fact the main thrust of the paper that started this – and results in more traffic.
So that’s traffic levels, but to quote a phrase, “all politics is local”, so where are these people from? Google Trends (here) gives us some background information.
Leeds, Bradford, bits of London, Cambridge – where the BNP are more active, they have more interest. Not really a surprise, but nice to see some data backing it up. The bNP have more readers where they are more active.
But where there is BNP activism, there is anti-BNP activism.
The anti-BNP groups who have the most awareness are the Anti-Nazi League and Unite Against Facism. When we put those terms into google trends, they don’t appear as having enough data at time of writing. The ANL website hasn’t been updated since 2004, and points people at UAF and Love Music Hate Racism.
So back to the alexa stats for BNP and UAF:
While the UAF traffic is low, more importantly, it bears no resemblance to the BNP traffic spikes, whereas the BNP spikes over their average traffic bears some resemblance to their activism and news coverage. The really interesting question here is “why?”
While the BNP are competent at putting their URL on their publicity and, unsurprisingly, so are LMHR, UAF do not.
While it is understandable to believe that the people doing the activism don’t need to be told the website address, it’s not about them. It’s also not about the people who will be active either in or against the BNP (which isn’t many), nor is it just about the people who will see the demonstration in person. Such events are often covered widely in the news, locally, nationally and beyond.
Is active opposition enough? With the BNP presenting a simple message, shouting it down and “just say no” needs to be backed up with something else (especially given the results in the drugs and abstinence debates), and you will never get the range and depth covered in a 20 minute news programme (in this country, or 2 minutes in the US).
One thing that the BNP have added to their site is a wide range of social bookmarking tools, to push the links between their site and their friends (their instructions: http://www.bnp.org.uk/social-networking/). However, there’s no linking to the BNP facebook group (somewhat understandable as the group is invite only) – the function seems to be mostly pushing their stuff out – monologue, rather than a discussion. UAF does a lot of community and engagement work, and has an active and welcoming core of supporters, but none of that is promoted from their site.
Do the BNP run an incredible online presence? No. But, currently, they may suck less others at getting people to visit their website, for whatever reason. However, a lowest common denominator campaign is relatively easy to beat. You need a message (which UAF/LMHR have) and a way of getting it to people. The hard bit of anything online is getting eyeballs and attention long enough for them to notice you and get hooked into more. UAF activities are fundamentally newsworthy, which is a great place to start…