Google’s Universal Analytics platform stopped collecting data this month. You may not know what Universal Analytics is – I sure didn’t before starting this blog – but it’s a free Google service that tracks a pretty amazing array of website activity, and might also help direct targeted advertising campaigns, for instance, for E-commerce sites or the like (not that that’s applicable for your friends at So Much Great Music which, of course, remains ad- and fee-free, and hopefully your favorite source for offbeat music commentary).
But I did utilize the resource regularly to try to keep track of how my various posts were doing. Until now, that is, when in Google’s lordly wisdom they decided to sunset the Universal Analytics (UA) service and replace it with their next evolution of tracking software, Google Analytics 4 (GA4), which is deemed to be more efficient at monitoring data patterns and creating custom reports, or something like that.
Sadly, the inherent problem for someone like me is that the interface and reporting outputs on GA4 are quite different from what I’ve been trained to find on UA. And though I’ve made some attempts to adapt – consulting briefly with local digital marketing guru John at Portland’s state-of-the-art flyte new media – a tragically non-tech savvy user such as myself is now flying somewhat blind.
At the very least, though, this undesired and still unsatisfactorily resolved transition provided the impetus to step back and take stock of some statistical inventory; a bit of perspective, let’s say, on the life to-date of So Much Great Music – accessed, of course, under the old Google system, which still exists online, for now, but ceased reporting any new information as of September 8th. And having done so, I thought I’d take the opportunity to present you, my loyal and valued SMGM readers, a few of the most eye-opening findings, including one in particular which, quite frankly, has blown me away.
Let’s start with this: since starting So Much Great Music (just over five years ago), it has now amassed close to one million views. I’m going to say that again, if not for your than for my own edification: nearly one million views (911,112 to be exact as of 9/7/23, but who’s counting). I vividly remember upon launching this intrepid site my seemingly ambitious hope that someday it might attract a couple hundred inquisitive visitors. Looks like I pretty badly underestimated the potential curiosity for an over-opinionated, self-proclaimed music aficionado droning on about the oddities and minutiae of often ridiculously subjective topics. Or, perhaps, people’s willingness to fritter away idle time.
Speaking of subjectivity, though, what have proven to be the most popular individual posts, you may ask? Lists, lists and more lists. Big surprise, people really seem to like reading about – and just as importantly, arguing about – the entirely subjective, gut-feeling personalized rankings of that which objectively cannot be ranked, i.e art. Nevertheless we do it every day, and not infrequently on this site. An accounting of SMGM’s most-read posts (in order) is as follows:
- The 10 Best Rock Frontmen
- The 10 Most Perfect Albums
- The Top 10 Best American Bands
- The Greatest Opening Guitar Riffs Ever
- Top 5 Movie Songs by Fictional Bands
Go ahead, visit (or even re-visit) these quite obviously definitive lists and join the arguments.
And if you’re wondering, other than Top 10-styled lists our most popular features thus far have been pieces on the following bands/artists (with actual SMGM article quotes shown in, well, quotes):
- Bruce Springsteen and how “over the years (a character named) ‘Mary’ has cropped up with an almost bizarre frequency in his songs”
- Bob Dylan and his live performance with “the single greatest collection of superstar artists ever gathered together on one stage”
- Dennis Wilson, the wholesome Beach Boy who “hung out with one of the most notorious embodiments of evil of the 20th century, Charles Manson”
- Steely Dan, whose rotating cast of virtuoso guitar soloists occasionally “reached a Bodhisattva-level of true enlightenment”
- Gladys Knight & The Pips, one performer of a rock rarity “where there were three different hugely popular versions of the same song”
But never mind all that, here’s what struck me as the mind-blowing part. One of the data collection points I’ve found most entertaining is that Google identifies the country from which the site visitor is viewing. Not their name, email address or anything personally specific – relax, your identities are safe from me – merely the country where it’s taking place. Which has frequently proven a source of great interest, if not intrigue. Though the majority originate from the United States, as might be expected, SMGM has reached users in Germany, France, Spain and Italy. In Norway and Denmark. In Brazil and Argentina. In Indonesia and Thailand. In Nigeria and Ghana. In Egypt and Qatar. Bhutan. Belize. Bolivia. From A-fghanistan to Z-imbabwe, and on and on. Rumors are our extended Dance Week features even inspired a brief craze on the Horn of Africa called the shake-Djibouti (alright, maybe that part’s not entirely true).
In addition to raising my eyebrows, this perusal has also occasionally forced me to ponder some semi-serious questions: Amidst a raging war, are people in Ukraine really stopping to read my exposition on how many times the word “everybody” appears in the song ‘Dancing in the Moonlight’? Did someone in Nepal really like a post about The Flying Burrito Brothers? Are Sri Lankans, Lithuanians and Cubans truly interested in Southern Rock? Is Antarctica a country? (apparently not – get it together, Google). And I’m no world geography expert, but some of the places in the report are certainly new to me: Palau? Lesotho? Andorra?! Eswatini??? C’mon, that’s got to be made up. I even expressed the disbelief of my evident reach to my digital counselor John, a backwards cap-wearing millennial, who responded with his own incredulity. “Yeah, well…that’s the internet, dude.”
In all, the report contained a whopping 207 countries where So Much Great Music has experienced at least one view. Maybe re-read that prior sentence, and then repeat after ol’ Jerry Lee: goodness gracious, great balls of fire. When I pointed this number out to my more worldly friend Duck his skepticism was immediately piqued by the minor issue that this total actually exceeds the amount of countries that exist; a different Google division finds that there are but 195 – defined as “independent sovereign states.” Yet a bit more scrutiny of our list revealed some of those being reported to be legitimate “territories,” such as Cook Islands, Anguilla, and my friend Cek’s favorite locale, Guam. So put that in your passport and smoke it, I guess.
This altogether staggering statistical presentation left me dumbfounded, and forced to choose one of a series of likely explanations:
- Google’s reporting is complete bullshit, a possibility that cannot be ignored
- Bots rule the online world, a theory John was inclined towards
- People everywhere are extraordinarily bored
- So Much Great Music has become – by definition – a worldwide phenomenon
Well, what the hell, I’m gonna go with that last one. Data doesn’t lie. Move over Prestige Worldwide; in the words of rock and roll’s best Centerfielder John Fogerty, So Much Great Music is truly Rockin’ All Over The World.
And since our Google analysis actually concludes that SMGM has had site views from what are literally more than every recognized country on earth, let’s let The Beatles have the final word. Jai Guru Deva, bitches, we’re officially Across The Universe.
Universal Analytics, indeed.