The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

No, every person on Earth did not read about the 2014 Redskins training camp

(AP Photo/The Richmond Times-Dispatch/ Joe Mahoney)
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Training camp is undoubtedly a popular time for NFL fans to read coverage about their favorite team. And when the Redskins moved training camp to Richmond two seasons ago, they undoubtedly prompted more NFL fans to read about the city of Richmond than otherwise would.

How many more? Well, the Redskins again attempted to assess that after the 2014 season. With the help of third-party media monitoring services Meltwater and TVEyes, the team put out a fancy 13-page report on its findings. That report determined, among other things, that there were “7,845,460,401 unique visitors of print/online coverage of the 2014 Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Camp from July 24-Aug. 12.”

That’s a big number. To put it in perspective, that’s considerably more than the population of Earth, which the Census Bureau estimates at 7.26 billion. Apparently a lot of folks on Pluto were really interested in Colt McCoy’s progress.

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What’s going on here? As with last season, the Redskins and their monitoring partners are using some strange definitions, definitions I can’t say I’ve seen other people use. “Unique viewers/visitors,” according to this report, provides “a unique and accurate count of the number of people visiting any content of a website in a given period of time, accounting for any possible duplication as a result of cookie deletion, cookie rejection or IP address changes.” “Hits,” according to this report, are “the amount of articles published on a search topic from any given source in the specified period of time.”

The team also explained that each article accrues the total unique visitor count of each site on which it appears. As an example, “if six articles on contain the specified search terms within the specified timeframe, the website’s unique visitor count (and accompanying value) is multiplied by six.” Fifteen Redskins articles on our site would credit the Richmond coverage with our millions of Washington Post unique visitors, times 15.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch — which first reported on this study, as part of an excellent piece about the team’s relationship with Richmond — contacted a Meltwater spokeswoman, who “said the number provided by the group is ‘impressions’ and counts anytime a person is exposed to a news story about the event, including social media posts.”

Now, you can say that this is all irrelevant and ridiculous. But the bold number at the top of the report is $76,146,720.61, which the team says is the “minimum total value of the coverage generated for the City of Richmond throughout the 2014 Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Camp,” a number that is presumably reflects the 7.8 billion unique visitors for the print and online coverage. It should be clear to just about anyone that 7.8 billion unique visitors did not consume Redskins training camp coverage, and that the media reports therefore did not generate a minimum of $76 million worth of coverage for the City of Richmond.

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The Redskins made similar claims last year, arguing that 2.95 billion unique visitors accessed the print and online coverage. The methodology was the same, and the results were as outlandish, even if they didn’t require extraterrestrial assistance.

Does this matter? Only insofar as the team’s word matters during the coming negotiations with local jurisdictions over a future stadium location. Or that the team’s word matters when it says thousands of seats were removed from FedEx Field “as part of an overall plan based on season ticket holder feedback,” while declining to say how many seats were removed or how they would be replaced.  Or that the team’s word matters when its top front-office official assures reporters that the starting quarterback “will be determined by the coach.”

Important people, of course, sometimes have to massage the truth in the service of their professional responsibilities. Counting the total number of people who read about the city of Richmond during a few weeks in the summer of 2014 should not be one of those times.

The Redskins-Patriots joint practice announcement last May did not attract 180 million unique viewers. Jay Gruden’s first visit to the city of Richmond did not attract 2.2 million unique viewers. Jon Gruden’s coaches clinic did not attract 58.1 million unique viewers. And three weeks of training camp did not attract 7.8 billion unique viewers, and did not generate $76 million worth of media coverage.

To make that claim encourages mockery at best, and a total lack of faith at worst. There are enough things to worry about with that franchise without wondering whether every human on earth read about its training camp.