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Saturday, March 17, 2007

Annals of Screwball Yuri Mamchur: The lies from Russia Blog just keep right on coming

In a pathbreaking original post on March 5th, La Russophobe published the results of her research on the Russia blogosphere, ranking the top Russia blogs based on Technorati link influence and Alexa traffic data. Siberian Light wrote a post about La Russophobe's research on the same day LR posted it. Senior Russian blogger Andy Young wrote that LR's work made for "interesting reading, and provided a pretty good overview of who is who in the English speaking Russia blogosphere." No other Russian blogger had ever attempted to provide readers with this basic information.

As readers will know, LR raised a serious questions about the significance of certain blogs' Alexa traffic levels. The data showed that only four Russia blogs in the world had more traffic than La Russophobe: Very Russian Tochka, Siberian Light, Russia Blog (a/k/a "The Real Russia Project") and Russian Spy. Only one of them, SL, has a public counter. LR pointed out that the traffic data for the first two blogs had been skewed by freakish incidents in which non-original material had been picked up by mammoth search engines, resulting a gigantic flow of traffic to the blogs for a few days which then disappeared. (To their credit, both bloggers have publicly acknowledged this fact in posts, which is how LR knows). LR also pointed out that Russian Spy is more like a newspaper than a blog (it's Alexa ranking has now fallen below that of LR), and that Russia Blog is unique among all blogs in the survey in that it is a funded operation published by a person, Yuri Mamchur, who is paid to do it. LR speculated that Russia Blog spends money on commercial traffic generation techniques to artificially boost its traffic data (for example, you can pay various firms to supply you with "key words" that can be inserted into your texts to generate hits, and you can pay "public relations" firms to talk up your site in key fora), and therefore comparing their traffic to that of a non-funded blog is pretty much meaningless. She also noted that although Russia Blog has more traffic than LR, it doesn't have significantly more Technorati linking blogs and has five times fewer links from those blogs than La Russophobe, indicating that the visits to Russia Blog are not really serious. What's more, she noted, Russia Blog doesn't have the guts to post a public counter, and it doesn't reveal any details about the nature of its traffic (for instance, how long an average visitor spends at the blog).

In a comment on Siberian Light, Russia Blog's Yuri Mamchur made the following statements about his blog's performance and funding in response to LR's analysis:

1) I have been very busy with fundraising in the last two months for my program which is called “The Real Russia Project” and does much more than a blog. Our next big conference will be held in Washington DC at the University Club on April 18 at 4:30 pm. The event name is “Russia: Friend, Foe, or What?”

2) The blog is still called Russia Blog. I just like the new banner and I will take your tip and add something about the actual blog name.

3) Discovery institute is a non-profit, and it takes the overhead cut for things like accounting, office space, IT support, etc. No one gives out money to anyone (at least in my world). Fundraising is tough, but I like what I’m doing.

4) Also the real stats of the blog for yesterday (March 7, 2007) are: 2,103 unique visitors to the main page, and other approximately 2,200 unique visitors to certain articles and archives. Our average is around 3,000-5,000 a day. Last month Russia Blog received 51,000 unique visitors. Our articles regularly appear in Google News. Just wait for a major piece by us and Google it up and hit the “news”.

As you can see, Yuri makes no attempt to deny that his blog spends money to generate traffic, and brags about spending money on various other projects as well. He indicates he plans to raise and spend more money in the future.

As for Yuri's claim about "regularly appearing" on Google news, perhaps poor Yuri doesn't understand what Google News is. According to Wikipedia: "the service is fully automated with no human editors." In other words, no living person has said that the Russia Blog items picked up by the GN aggregator are worth spit. It just means his blog has been picked at random by a computer. According to Wiki, such problems can arise as the following: " In March 2005 attention was called to Google's inclusion of the white supremacist National Vanguard magazine, and the resulting controversy forced Google to remove that site from the service." In other words, the computer doens't have the slightest idea what it's doing, and acts at random. Nazis can get listed on Google News, and undoubtedly if you're willing to pay a consultant to take the effort there are techniques any blog could use to direct Google's spiders to its content. It's not surprising that Yuri wouldn't read Wikipedia, since it exposes Discovery Institutes significant ethical lapses as it wages its war to bring the teaching of intelligent design to the world's schoolchildren.

In other words, the way to judge whether being picked up by Google News means anything is to check and see whether anybody actually reads the item and refers to Russia Blog as the source. If you look at that question, you see that Yuri's statement is a bold misrepresentation of the facts. If you search Google News for "Russia Blog" you will find 12 entries, not one of which has been picked up by another news entity; one of the entries is about the screening of a Russian film at Russia Blog headquarters and another is some photographs of somebody watching the Superbowl in Moscow. If that's "news" then LR will eat her hat. Others, like this one, are actually reprints of stories in newspapers by a blog that is doing fundraising. In case "lawyer" Yuri Mamchur hasn't heard, that's copyright infringement unless you have permission to do it. Do you, Yuri dear? None of the items constitutes original reporting of "news" by the staff of Russia Blog. In short, there's no evidence at all that anyone cares in the least about these "news stories" from Russia Blog and no reason whatsoever for Google to be treating them as "news" (except for sleight of hand by Russia Blog).

If you search Google News instead for "Real Russia Project" you get only one entry: It was entitled "New Russian IPOs: The Russian AIM Way" and appeared on March 6th. It's an article by a Russian stock broker trying to tout the wonders of investing in the Russian market. Russia Blog does not declare whether the author has any financial ties to RRP/Russia Blog or not (as Yuri states, he's actively engaged in fundraising -- is this writer a contributor?), and the post isn't original material published by Russia Blog, it's just a republication from the author's own blog. So it's really the author's blog that should have been listed on Google News, not RRP (in other words, RRP has co-opted -- in effect, stolen -- the original blog's publicity for itself).

Now let's look at the ripple effect that this publication had in the world of news. There wasn't any. Google news shows that no other "news" site (not even the Nazis) picked up the story. Even if you put "The Russian AIM Way" into Google's main search engine to look for the most obscure text references to the story, you will see that there are only 79 hits on the story and only 13 unique links. Two of the 13 links are to RRP's own site and two more are to the original blog which published the story, from which RRP copied it. So outside of the little world of Russia Blog, their "big story" has been mentioned on the whole world wide web a total of nine times. Not one of the links is significant or even contains a substantive discussion of RRP's story, which of course could easily be viewed not as a news story but as an editorial arguing in favor of a positive view of the Russian stock market. If you search the link for Russia Blog's post, www.russiablog.org/2007/03/new_russian_ipos_the _russian _a.php, you don't get a single result.

The only evidence on Google News of anyone ever paying the slightest attention to Russia Blog entries is found if you search their archives. If you search the archives for "Russia Blog" you find that two posts, namely "Putin to Step Down, No Third Term" in August 2006 and "Murder Over Foreign-Made Car" in September 2006 were picked up once each by other news sites (PR Newswire and Reuters News Alert). If you search the archives for "Real Russia Project" you find that one other post, "Uninformed Stereotypes" in September, was picked up twice, once allegedly by Forbes newswire (the link is dead now) and once by Keepmedia newswire. So Google News says that Russia Blog posts have been noticed by other "news" sites only four times in the last eight months, and not once since September 2006. That's hardly "regular" genuine activity on Google News, to say the least.

So, once again, we find that Yuri Mamchur and RRP/Russia Blog appear to be guilty of wildly irresponsible hyperbole as they seek to publicize their blog. Even if Russia Blog posts were "regularly" appearing on Google News, that wouldn't mean a thing unless people were actually reading them, and they clearly aren't.

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