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(Note that the graphics representing August reflect only the first week's numbers.)

The Panama News circulation figures answer some questions, raise a few more

In July The Panama News had 13,266 visits, which is a record for us. We had been hovering between 10,000 and 11,000 visitors since a dip that we don't entirely understand in March. But such web activity figures as we get from our web server, which are quite welcome from a business point of view, nevertheless raise new questions in our minds, and most likely in those of our advertisers.

For example, we don't have any good figures on unique visitors. A person who reads each issue of The Panama News on the day after it is uploaded would visit twice a month, counting for two visits and one unique visitor. Someone who reads two issues of The Panama News in one session counts for one visit and one unique visitor. People whose computers don't allow cookies don't allow them to be counted as unique visitors, nor do they allow us to know from whence they are logging onto our website.

Such imponderables raise the biggest question of all: How many of our readers are in Panama?

Yes, we do get country usage statistics, which indicate that we have readers in at least 88 countries. However, between those users identifed as coming from "network" (34.21 percent), "unresolved/unknown" (21.65 percent), and "non-profit organization" (0.7 percent), more than half of our readers are logging on from places that we can't identify. Moreover, we would expect that a number of the people who are categorized as coming from the US government and US educational institutions are American diplomats or scholars who are actually in Panama. The 1.08 percent of visits attributed to Panama is almost certainly a gross underestimate, but exactly how inaccurate it is is hard for us to guess.

And what of those readers in Argentina? Most of the spam mail that comes to that can be identified as to country of origin comes from Argentina. How many of those visits are from people or automated programs collecting our address for spam advertising?

The visitors we get from the US military do not surprise us at all. From our mail we know a lot of our readers are military personnel or civilian US Department of Defense employees who were once stationed in Panama. And do the US Marine Corps guards at the embassy here, veterans living in Panama who use the US Army's email service, or the people who load the Plan Colombia supply flights at Tocumen Airport count as US military?

Our best conservative guess is that about 7,000 people, about 80 percent of them people in the United States with historic ties to Panama, regularly read The Panama News. We believe that our readership in Panama is much more than our web server documents and is slowly growing. We could be wrong about all of that.

How does that stack us up against other Panamanian websites? We don't know for sure, but we believe that we are the country's most widely read online newspaper.

We suspect that a lot of the claims that are made are bogus, especially when those are made in terms of hits. If a visitor to The Panama News reads 15 articles, that counts for 15 hits. Our web server says that we got 165,550 hits in July, and we may be headed toward two million hits in 2002. However, advertisers should be more interested in hits than visitors, and should always be suspicious of unsupported readership/viewership/audience claims by all businesses whose income derives from advertising and Panamanian media in particular, given the lack of laws about misrepresentation of such figures in this country. While 165,550 sounds better than 13,266 at first hearing, we think that those who sell ads or seek government sponsorship as an "official" tourism website by citing hits rather than visitors bear the mark of hustlers.

Top 30 of 88 Total Countries for July 2002

# Hits

1 49170 Network
2 42972 US Commercial
3 31088 Unresolved/Unknown
4 12673 Argentina
5 9052 US Military
6 3075 US Educational
7 1931 Canada
8 1573 Panama
9 1455 US Government
10 1215 United States
11 943 United Kingdom
12 938 Non-Profit Organization
13 859 Aruba
14 657 Costa Rica
15 641 Mexico
16 561 Netherlands
17 522 Japan
18 436 Italy
19 412 Australia
20 391 Spain
21 346 Chile
22 288 Thailand
23 287 Nicaragua
24 284 Portugal
25 249 Denmark
26 246 Switzerland
27 235 Germany
28 218 Trinidad and Tobago
29 214 France
30 209 New Zealand (Aotearoa)

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