Saturday, December 06, 2003

They Haven't Gone Away, You Know

This seems as good a time as any to blog about the BNP. They've lost a few council seats and have pretty much fallen off the political radar since they gained 17 (or thereabouts) council seats in May, accompanied by many Guardian articles and much soul-searching by decent sorts like Harry.

But no-one in the media commented upon July's staggering revelation that the BNP site had risen in eighteen months from pretty much nowhere to become the most popular site of any UK political party, according to Alexa.

I knew little about Alexa at the time. It's an Amazon subsidiary offering a free browser toolbar which blocks popups and also gives information about the site you're browsing. Of course to get the info, it has to tell Alexa which sites you're visiting, giving the company a tremendous analytical tool. Several million people have downloaded the toolbar so they have a fair sample of Web users, thugh probably US and Euro-biased.

Using the information, Alexa can rank the website and can extrapolate (comparing the number of toolbar users online with the total number of Web users online) to give a rough idea of what they call the reach - the number of people per million surfers who will visit the site in a given day.

The BNP site was ranked at 40,000-odd in August, compared to Labour's 80,000 and the BBC's 25th, Guardian 350th, Telegraph 750th, Spectator 15,000th. So it's the 40,000th most popular site among Alexa users.

The last 3 months have been quiet ones with little media coverage. Yet the site has risen by 10,000 places and is now ranked at 30,000 over the last 3 months. That doesn't sound like a party that's peaked. 'Reach' is 50 people per million. I tried to translate this into visits, using as a template a site I ran for a couple of years which had a reach of 0.15. This equates to about 20,000 unique sessions a year from the site's stats. Scale up for a reach of 50 (approx 300 times 0.15) and you're looking at maybe 600,000 hits a year. That's not a small number.

This doesn't mean that we should be manning the barricades yet. The BNP will only become a credible political force when self-proclaimed nationalist bands are in the charts and the hippest rebels in school identify with them. I see no signs at all of such a culture change (and think it likely that such a change would not be pleasant).

But it does mean that the sky is darkening and occasional clucking is audible as a few more liberal chickens come home to roost. Interesting times.

UPDATE 14/12/03 - Great maths - 300 times 20,000 equates to 6 million hits per year, not 600,000. That does sound improbable I admit ... but the site has since risen another couple of thousand places ... and a Calderdale councillor has defected from the Tories. Mind you, the Socialist Party won a council seat a week or two back - but that doesn't get the publicity that a BNP win does. The BBC and Guardian devote attention to the BNP for the same reason people watch horror films or read crime novels - that little liberal frisson of vicarious contact with unknown evil. They'll live to regret it, I tell you ...

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