opinion

Odd bits about stats

Scott Rabinowitz
Every year around this time, I always get an intellectually satisfying grin on my face when I think about unusual stats bits that materialize around major calendar events, such as observed holidays, etc. The first year in this business I actually took a look and saw how many consumers were looking for erotic fulfillment from web sites on Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, the US-observed Thanksgiving Day, etc. I was quite intrigued.

While overall traffic counts on the holidays were not as high as they could be on other days of the year, they were still much healthier than I had imagined at the time, circa late 1990’s. I looked at raw traffic counts as well as performance data from multiple affiliate programs and could clearly see that regardless of what the community of the rest of the world might be doing on holidays, there are millions of people looking for other, more personal forms of comfort at the same time. Being a bit of the curious type, I went and chatted with a friend who works in and has been academically trained in the economics profession.

My friend was no at all surprised by my data. She noted that during the worst of times emotionally and economically (as individual and as a collective society), personal satisfaction products and services are in their greatest demand. Sex, fine foods, sweets/chocolate, alcohol, tobacco, etc., in many cases where the consumers may not be able to afford these luxuries on a practical level, are nonetheless consumed in greater volumes where life looks uncertain.

This discussion happened during the December holiday season of 2001. As such, I was asked to look my stats and see what I could find for that most somber day – September 11th of the same year. As the economist thought, while many people may have spent that day in sorrow, but consuming other personal satisfaction goods and services, there were most definitely people on the ‘net, surfing porn and buying access to web sites that could satisfy. While this may seem disturbing to some, I take comfort in knowing that in the best and in the worst of times, the merchants in our field are inadvertently doing their part for the human satisfaction cause.