What is happening: Over the next two weeks, we will be rolling out cross-domain tracking for Google Analytics across all Gawker Media and Kinja sites.
This is a very important change to the data that we are gathering about the Kinja platform. Until now, as readers visited different domains (for example, going from gawkerdata.kinja.com to gawker.com) we registered one pageview on each site (correctly), but on a Kinja-wide basis we were not able to tell that the user had re-circulated from a different Kinja site, or which site they had come from. This is because Google Analytics was creating a new user id for each domain a user visited.
Once we make this change, we will be setting only one Google Analytics id for a visitor across all sites. While we generate user ids and session ids independently, we have a long-standing policy not to pass that information to google or any other vendors.
What this means for Readers: Readers won't notice any change in the short to medium-term: we are not adding any additional tracking or gathering any additional data. The data that we are gathering in Google Analytics is, as always, not able to be associated to an individual reader without access to that reader's device (ie it is not tied to a Kinja account).
In the long term, I hope that organizing our data this way will help us improve the reading experience. We want to improve our user interface and recommend content to readers, and this data is a big part of those projects.
For readers of this post who would like to block website tracking, Lifehacker offers are very thorough how-to guide here.
What this means for Gawker Media sites: Our editorial & business teams look at Google Analytics on a site-by-site basis. These numbers will generally not change. However, since we will be over-writing some users' ids, GA will be over-reporting the number of new visitors and under-reporting returning visitors to your sites for the next few weeks. This also means that the total number of users to your site will be inflated for this month only. If you need to report any of these numbers, please talk to me and we will figure out an estimate for you.
Data from other sources (Quantcast, Chartbeat, etc) will be unaffected.
What this means for the Product Team: Product's GA numbers will change radically. We will still be registering the same amount of activity, but it will be grouped in a smaller number of sessions. In addition to the effects I mentioned for Gawker Media sites, I expect the pageviews per session and events per session to jump and the total number of sessions to fall (dramatically, in some cases). We also will be able to track site-to-site traffic from recommendations and in-article links with much greater precision.
I'm very excited for this change: this will be the last major update to our site tagging for the foreseeable future. Many thanks to Janos and Tibi for doing the lion's share of the work, and Ben, Tom, and Tamas for their advice/perspectives.