How The Betoota Advocate became more popular than The Onion

In just six months satirical news site The Betoota Advocate has surpassed the Australian traffic of The Onion and The Shovel. Hitwise insights analyst Andrew Barton reveals the demos behind the figures in this guest post...

Hidden away deep in the heart of outback Queensland lies the fabled town of Betoota, home to one of Australia’s most distinguished and respected journalistic endeavours – The Betoota Advocate.


From hard-hitting political analysis to eye-opening community exposés, the fine reporters of The Betoota Advocate leave no story unwritten, no issue untargeted and continually push the envelope of investigative journalism across our increasingly unmoderated society, both at home and abroad.

In all seriousness though, The Betoota Advocate is Australia’s long-awaited answer to “America’s finest news source” The Onion, a ruthlessly scathing and consistently on-point satirical barb aimed at the news and media landscape and society in general.

As a tongue-in-cheek connoisseur myself, what interests me most about this story is the rapid growth with which The Betoota Advocate encroached into a still nascent satirical news market within Australia.

The true success of The Betoota Advocate became manifest within the past six months or so, when audience numbers and total visits (from Australian internet users specifically) surged drastically, thoroughly surpassing the likes of other satirical news sites The Onion and The Shovel.


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So what drove this spectacular success?  Well, let’s take a look at the top upstream websites visited prior to The Betoota Advocate in October 2016:

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Does that 54.74% share for Facebook seem significant to you?  Because it most certainly is – for reference, here are the average Facebook upstream shares across some key industries online:

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Whilst high Facebook traffic is common for satirical news sites, The Betoota Advocate exemplifies the phenomenon, with its proportion of Facebook-driven traffic consistently dwarfing that of its peers:

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This raises the question: who are these ardent Facebook fans who are so unreservedly engaging with The Betoota Advocate’s brilliance (beyond myself, that is)?

To answer this, I jumped into Hitwise’s consumer analysis tool AudienceView and built a custom audience segment of internet users who visit The Betoota Advocate.  Firstly, what are the demographic characteristics of this audience, and how do they compare with the online population in general?

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There’s a definite skew towards male readers, though not entirely overwhelming – the more significant trend is the immense over-representation of the youngest age groups 18-24 & 25-34, with the male portions of those sub-groups 100% over-indexed as compared with the online population.

This data hits very close to home, considering I fall within the most over-represented demographic here – so at the risk of unwittingly self-analysing my own internet behaviour, let’s delve further into The Betoota Advocate audience’s online visitation trends to better understand what resonates with these individuals.

Starting at a high level, what over-arching online industries does this audience gravitate towards? By comparing its industry visits shares to that of the online population, we can highlight the key industries of value to these avid Betoota Advocate readers.

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Unsurprisingly, this audience has roughly a 50% higher than average propensity for social media use, which helps explain The Betoota Advocate’s success in Facebook engagement.

Also significantly over-represented are both the News & Media – Other and News & Media – Print categories, so even putting aside the love of satire, these individuals clearly like to stay well-informed.

The data point I want to investigate here though is the 172 index on Blogs & Personal Websites visitation – let’s dive into some industry-specific website visitation data for an example of how we can snapshot some of this audience’s interests.


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By plotting visits shares against unique users, we capture average visit frequency at a glance, gauging a sense of visitor engagement with each of these top blogs and personal sites.

Whilst Pinterest has the highest number of unique users, it is very under-represented within the audience – Lad Bible, on the other hand, over-indexed massively and saw a much higher visits share, indicating a user base who visit much more frequently.  The Betoota Advocate audience seems to engage strongly with the type of content present on Lad Bible, and this fits well with the other prominent sites appearing such as Distractify and Dorkly.

So from what I’ve seen, The Betoota Advocate has enraptured an audience that was really already theirs for the taking – a young cohort of internet savvy individuals, with a taste for digital news sources, and a penchant for humorous content.

Combine this with a significant propensity for social media use, and the wild success of The Betoota Advocate via Facebook-driven traffic suddenly seems like it was inevitable.

Such is the power of a well-orchestrated, interest-relevant social media strategy that leverages an audience already keenly engaged with your social media platform of choice.

After all, here I am telling their story myself, with a mischievous grin and a treasure trove of Hitwise internet data at my fingertips to do so.

Andrew Barton is an insights analyst at Hitwise


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