On the Ministry of Foreign Affairs homepage’s popularity January 29, 2007Posted by fukumimi in Internet, Japan, Politics.
Apparently, according to this Asahi article(in Japanese), Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is the second most popular government foreign ministry site in the world, after the US State Department site.
The claim is based on statistics provided by Alexa. Of course, no need to go through the same old arguments as to why Alexa rankings are not the most reliable metric, especially in an international context.
The other members of the top 5 list reinforces this suspicion. 3rd is Saudi Arabia, 4th China, 5th France. So it looks like the Japanese page is 2nd most popular amongst English language Internet Explorer users. (I’ve never seen an Alexa toolbar installed on a Japanese PC, ever)
In what I would characterise as misleading journalism, Asahi includes a chart depicting the growth in MoFA site page views alongside the article.
[Labels from right to left are: 9-11, Koizumi’s visit to the DPRK, DPRK abductees return to Japan, Chinese SARS outbreak, Outbreak of Iraq War, DPRK missile test, and DPRK nuke test. The labels seem pretty arbitary, as they don’t really all correspond to spikes in pageviews. Note the spike in December 2003 or the one in the summer of 2000 which are left unannotated. I wonder if there is a reason these more prominent spikes were left unmentioned. The 2003 spike is most likely related to the killing in Iraq of a MoFA bureaucrat (who happened to be the subject of rumours relating to a certain member of the Imperial household) and the 2000 spike, although I’m less certain on this one, looks like the Okinawa G7 summit]
Note that it shows a fairly steep positive gradient.
Compare to the Alexa stats for mofa.go.jp.
Which doesn’t show anywhere as much growth. (The Alexa stats show the downturn in the last 16 months much more clearly, too)
I’m guessing that the text was written with the Alexa stats, and the graphic is using pageview data provided by the MoFA.
Hmmm….. Since when have the Asahi and the MoFA become so friendly, anyway?
The piece has a couple of hilarious moments, albeit unintentionally.
The article says that MoFA bureaucrats are baffled as to the reason for the site’s popularity, but there are people who credit the fact that content gets uploaded on to the site quickly, and the site’s ease of use. Yes, I’m sure they are the real reasons. Not.
The article also proudly advertises the fact that an IT PR office was set up in July 2005, bringing in someone from the private sector (from IBM Japan, as it happens) to head up the new unit. This Kamimura-san who heads up the new office says: “Historically, Japanese ministry websites were just about information disclosure”, and the article goes on to say that he worked to strengthen the ability of the web presence to disseminate information and the government message. (fine line between that and propaganda….)
Whilst Alexa is a sub-optimal tool for measuring relative popularity, it is OK for looking at historical trends. It is rather ironic that the downturn in pageviews seems to coincide with the appointment of this IT “expert” to revamp the website……
Having touted the site’s popularity based on the relative rankings vs 109 other nations’ websites as measured by third party statistics, I don’t think the MoFA can turn around and discredit the recent downward trend without making itself look really stupid.
Oh yes, if the graph used in the article is legitimate (if it is, it was most likely provided by the MoFA, because no amount of fiddling with axes will turn the Alexa numbers into that graph), then we have that huge growth in pageviews to explain. My bet is that a substantial portion is due to the cat and mouse game with hackers and the odd DDoS spambot network attack. I’d sure like to see where the access is coming from. Who knows, they may be inflating the numbers themselves to give them a reason to ask for an increased budget to “better serve the taxpayer”….
[PS to Asahi – You really need to think about the use of correct units in your reporting. Pageviews per day/week/month????]