Turning the tables: the Digest looks at You, the biofuels reader

October 5, 2012 |

Today, we look at a really, really important topic: You.

As a bioenergy reader, what influences your thinking, what kind of information are you searching for, how do you respond to messaging, and when, and how? Is media power becoming more diffuse, or more concentrated?

In the issues of Biofuels Digest, we almost invariably look at the trends relating to companies, products, processing technologies, or feedstocks. In today’s Digest, we’re going to flip that around and look at you – the bioenergy-based reader.

We get a lot of questions about how to reach you, influence your thinking, and attract your attention. Figuring out how to reach people with your own message is inevitably important in a sector that generates more than $80 billion in direct economic activity – and a lot more indirectly. And the data streams are getting far more sophisticated these days.

Today, in a spirit of community rather than with Big Brotherian ambitions — we look at you, the Digest reader.

Who are you? The Demographics

Turns out that the average Digest reader is male, affluent, super educated and middle-aged. 51% of internet users are women, but 63 percent of Digest readers are guys. 46% of internet users are aged 35-64, but 61% of Digest readers are. 20% of internet users earn more than $100,000, but 36% of Digest readers do. 14% of internet users have gone to grad school, while 29% of Digest readers have.

Where are you? Which countries?

On the web, 65% of Digest readers are in the US, though the publication is read in every country of the world (including the Vatican – giving hope that even the Popemobile may one day switch to biodiesel). Turns out though that Taiwan holds the record for the highest number of pages per visit, and the most time spent with an average page.

Other popular countries? Generally, countries where English is dominant or widely spoken, unsurprisingly. Canada, the UK, India, Australia. But There’s a steady readership across the EU – among the top 10 countries are Germany, France and the Netherlands. Brazil also makes the top 10, while lots of Asian countries including China, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore are found in the top 20.

Which states?

In the US, the top states are California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Massachusetts. Those last two are surprisingly avid readers – also the readership is heavy in Colorado, DC, Minnesota, and Iowa. However, Kentuckians read the most pages per visit and spend the most time per page.

Which cities?

The biggest cities, for readership, are New York, Washington, London, Houston and San Francisco. Top cities outside the US (besides London)? Singapore, Toronto,, Paris, Sydney and Bangalore. Biggest college town? Madison, Wisconsin, which checks in at #15 globally.

The most page views per reader? Jakarta, followed closely by Ottawa and Paris. The most time spent per page? Dallas, followed by South San Francisco. The shortest attention span, globally? Bethesda, followed by Minneapolis, Sydney, Melbourne, and San Diego.

How many Digest readers are there?

Depends on how you count. There are 67,000 monthly unique visitors on the web, we have 48,000 subscribers to a Digest newsletter, and about 16,000 followers in social media. All together? That’s 130,000. One way of thinking about that is that there’s bound to be duplication in there (so, the net number has to be be lower). Conversely, we’ve had 164,000 unique web visitors over the summer, so if you count it that way, the total heads north of 200,000.

What do you read?

What a broad mix. Digest readers accessed 19,575 different stories on the site this summer – suffice to say, you are highly driven by your own interests, rather than by the headlines.

But one thing is sure. You like stories about game-changers. Companies going to the next level, or out of business, or shaking themselves up. You like rankings too – the Hot 50, and rankings of people are perennial winners. Trend stories are fairly popular too. Marine biofuels, biobased intermediates, updates in the Advanced Biofuels Project Database – all of them attracted your attention.

Some of the top stories this summer? “How Joule may turn biofuels upside down”, “advanced biofuels pioneer terrabon files for chapter 7 bankruptcy — one off or trend?”, and “sapphire completes construction of the green crude farm – algae biofuels heads for the next level.” Coskata’s switch to natural gas, the Obama plan for advanced biofuels, the completion of Beta Renewables Crescentino project.

How far back will you go to read a story?

Interestingly, stories don’t die on the Internet, unlike print, where yesterday’s news is today’s fish wrap. On the main Biofuels Digest site this summer, 18 percent of the stories you read were from 2010 and 2011 – and it takes roughly three months for a story to accumulate its total readership.

In the case of our most-read story of the summer, “How Joule may turn biofuels upside down” — only 25 percent of readers who eventually read the story did so on the first day the story broke. 42 percent had read it by the end of the week (July 13) and 60 percent by the end of the month. It wasn’t until the end of August that the figure reached 79%, and 98% of all readers to date by September 30th. Meaning that nearly as many people read the story in its second month on the site as read it on day one.

When do you read?

Well, it’s probably a self-fulfilling prophecy, since we release the Digest at 9AM ET, but the 9 o’clock hour is the big winner. For those of you trying to get a release into the marketplace, that’s a great time to target to maximize readership. Bad news? After 5pm, of course, when readership dips sharply. But you get a longer read later in the day, too, as reading time peaks at over 4 minutes at 3AM.

Searching for information

We find this one fascinating. A look at what people search for in Google. Unsurprisingly, 45 percent of those searching the term “biofuels digest” over the last few days clicked through to the site, but we think it’s fascinating that 42.5 percent of Google clicks on the search term”how did 9/11 change the world” found the Digest. Other terms where the Digest picks up a lot of overall web traffic – Range Fuels, bioisoprene, farnesene, Chemtex, Codexis Shell, algae biofuel india and biodiesel company.

This summer, the big search terms? Biofuels, Amyris, LS9, medco, codexis, Genomatica, and KiOR.

Social media

It’s amazing that there isn’t more cross-media clicking going on – Twitter users or Facebook mavens clicking through to websites, but it rarely happens. Just 2 percent of the Digest’s traffic comes from social media. Who are the champs – Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, in that order. Interesting to us, since the Digest is hardly active at all on Facebook but distribute all of its content daily via Twitter.

The bottom line

Although we rarely spend our days gazing at the data streams, it’s kind of Big Brotherish, when you think of how much data a popular website can accumulate on what influences people when they are accessing information.

One thing we note. There’s an awful lot of discussion these days about the “democratization of the web”, and how social media and citizen journalism are reshaping the landscape – that more and more voices are creating a “conversation” on the web. That may well be the future, but we are not seeing it in the data.

When 10-15 percent of all global Google searches on a single term such as “Codexis Shell”, “Chemtex” or “Secretary of Agriculture 2012” are coming to a single website (which is, ahem, just a little less trafficked than the New York Times), it tells you that we are not necessarily living in an era where information is getting more diffuse. We can only imagine what kind of influence that Facebook, the Huffington Post and Google are accumulating. Media power  may be getting more concentrated.


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