This post was first published on the Parliamentary Digital Service blog
It’s Hansard’s sixth blog post, so we're going to give you six interesting (we think they are) Hansard stats. That’s right. Numbers.
Now, Hansard people are obviously words people. We’re at home with words and in our comfort zone. We can fuss over them because they’re like little sleeping cats. Warm, stretchy, and reassuring.
You might think that, in contrast, we aren’t numbers people. But that isn’t actually true. It’s 2017. Data is important. So we’re numbers people now too. Numbers might not be quite as comforting as words or cats, but they’re mighty powerful and less likely to bite your toes.
Hansard started using Google Analytics a couple of years ago to see how people were interacting with the new Hansard website. And it’s been a valuable tool, showing us how our readers and viewers engage with Parliament. So although this is the internet, where cats are tried and tested clickbait, I hope these cold hard numbers will tell you more about Hansard’s reach than any of our soppy feline chat.
Third most viewed page
Over the last year, Hansard has been the third most viewed page on the whole Parliament website, beaten only by the homepage and the MPs, Lords and offices page.
Nearly 8 million pageviews
That’s how many pageviews the new Hansard website received in its first 12 months (just over 6 million of those were unique). That’s compared with just under 2 million (nearly 1.5 million unique) views from January to December 2015. There were probably a few reasons for this increase of more than 300%.
2015 was an election year so we’d expect fewer hits given that there were fewer debates. Also, our new website is much more user-friendly. It’s easier to search and share content than it was before, and the site is optimised for mobile devices. In fact, 35% of readers now access Hansard on their phone. What else would you be doing on the bus to work?
Another factor is the excellent Petitions Committee team. Everyone who signed a petition is sent a link to the Hansard transcript of the e-petition debate. The effect of this can also been seen in the device usage stats, with more than 50% of e-petition debate readers accessing the debate on their phone, compared with 38% on a desktop or laptop.
The average reading time of people who use mobile devices to access e-petition debates is also a third longer than people reading the debates at their desk. So maybe you really are using those long commutes wisely.
Parliament.tv has had more than 2 million views
We don’t just measure our readership. The broadcasting unit is part of the Hansard team so we also collect statistics on viewing figures. Parliamentlive.tv has had nearly 2.2 million viewers so far in 2017.
Ten (as in top ten)
We can compile charts of the most read debates (eat your heart out Radio 1) which tend to mirror the most shared debates on social media. These charts don’t always show what you might expect.
For instance, only two of the top ten most read debates from April 2016 to November 2017 took place in the Commons Chamber.
The other eight (including all of the top seven) were all Westminster Hall debates triggered by e-petitions which shows the influence of the Petitions Committee.
People obviously like to read debates that they were interested in and on issues that they really care about. The top two debates were on EU referendum rules and President Trump’s state visit.
That’s the average length of time people spent reading the top three longest read debates (debates with over 100 readers, just to control for the outliers who may have left a tab open for ages). Nine minutes is a long time, given that the average time spent reading a Hansard debate is just over one minute.
Between April 2016 and October 2017, the most popular debates in terms of time spent reading were on work capability assessments, driven grouse shooting, and Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis.
They’re all topics that have a big impact on people’s lives, even if some don’t affect a particularly large number of people.
These kinds of stats are great for reinforcing to Hansard reporters the importance of what we do. You might be reporting a debate that's poorly attended or that doesn’t make it on to the Ten O'Clock News. But the likelihood is that it contains vital information for someone, somewhere, so it’s crucial they can access an accurate report as quickly as possible.
Okay, so this is a bit of a cheat, because these figures aren’t stats. They’re the two years that bookend our Historic Hansard content. But they’re still numbers, so I think that counts.
We also use Google Analytics to see how many people are reading debates that took place before 2005, which is currently hosted elsewhere. We have a big project under way to integrate all that archived material into our new website, so you’ll be able to read and search the content just like any recent debate.
The most read Historic Hansard debate in 2016 was the Second Reading of the Parliament Bill in 1947, which includes Churchill's famous definition of democracy. Hardly surprising given the nation-changing referendum that took place in 2016.
So far in 2017, the debate on the Anglo-Irish agreement on 27 November 1985 has topped this list. Again, a likely consequence of the issues raised by the UK's decision to leave the EU.
Back to words: why we care about the numbers
Speaking of democracy, at Hansard we’re acutely aware that we’re at the forefront of making Parliament more accessible and transparent. If people engage with our content, they’re engaging with their Parliament. So it’s interesting to see how people are doing that, and how changes to our website can make a difference. We can share this information with management, our staff and other people in Parliament.
We can also get a nice snapshot of our readership. We can see where in the world our readers are, which devices they prefer to use and the age spread of people interested in particular debates. And the important questions, such as whether they like cats. Well, maybe not the cat bit, that would just be too good to be true.
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