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The Online Citizen (TOC) today (Apr 30) attempted to ‘fact-check’ CNA’s feature on Observer+ but ended up getting their data bungled.

TOC piece titled “CNA fails to do fact-checking when reporting on online news site, Observer+” alleges the following points:

  • The validity of Observer+ pageviews
  • The question of Observer+ business entity

Pageviews – what TOC reported and where they got it wrong

According to CNA’s article, Observer+ received 1.9 million pageviews a month.

TOC implied that their own pageviews are “nearly the same” with Observer+ but the latter ranks almost 700 places below TOC in Alexa. As such, TOC finds Observer+ pageviews “hard to believe”.

Alexa is a data analytics website that ranks millions of websites in order of popularity. The site with the highest combination of visitors and pageviews is ranked #1 in that country.

Unfortunately, using Alexa to track pageviews is a false equivalency. A more accurate comparison tool would be Similarweb which shows a website’s standing in terms of visits.

In fact, Observer+’s analytics shown in Similarweb are certified via Google Analytics. TOC’s analytics however is an estimate as the website owner has not yet connected their Google Analytics account with Similarweb.

Let’s now compare the pageviews of Observer+ and The Online Citizen:

Similarweb users ‘Sessions’ to calculate a website ‘Total Visits’. A session is when one unique user visits the website. If the user opens the website in multiple devices, eg. 3 devices, then it will be counted as 3 sessions to 1 user.

To calculate a website pageview in Similarweb, you multiply the ‘Total Visits’ to ‘Pages Per Visit’.

As the data showed, Observer+ has lower visitorship than TOC (378.77K vs 1.50M). However, Observer+ visitors read 3 times more pages than TOC (5.22 pages per visit vs 1.69).

Owing to Observer+ high engagement of its articles, it garnered 1.98M pageviews (certified) vs TOC’s 2.54M (estimated) for the month of March 2019. As such, CNA report on Observer+ pageviews is correct, while TOC’s report is false.

This is where we thank TOC for the opportunity to low-key flex.

Here’s Observer+ pageviews according to Google Analytics (not public data) for the month of March 2019:

Here’s where we are at for April 2019:

Let us go further by revealing our numbers from December 2018 to April 2019:

Strangely, TOC provided a screenshot of their own Google analytics to justify their pageviews but the image only provided the number of users and sessions – not the pageviews:

Perhaps the writer might not have the technical knowledge to understand what constitutes a pageview but we hope this article can be an opportunity for them to flex their full Google Analytics data.

Business entity of Observer+

In the CNA piece, our representative Sarah Tang said that Observer+ will come under the ownership of Blackwilder if we “hit the threshold needed for it to be licensed under the Broadcasting Act”.

Tang said:

โ€œIn terms of working within the parameters of the law, Azlyโ€™s marketing technology firm Blackwilder is the registered business entity in Singapore. Blackwilder, in turn, is part of a registered entity under Rockefeller Pte Ltd that he owns.”

โ€œWhen the time comes, Observer+ will go under the ownership of Blackwilder and will be operated within that Singapore entity.”

โ€œAs Blackwilder already has its own P&L (profit and loss statement), any funds for (the) operation will come from them. We donโ€™t accept foreign funding (nor) will there be a need to seek local funding.”

TOC then took issue with the existence of Blackwilder:

“But, the business status of Blackwilder, the company that Observer+ claimed to take ownership of the site, has long been cancelled as recorded by the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA).”

“Although Rockfeller Pte Ltd is still in live company in Singapore, Blackwilder has ceased its operations.”

“As such, this brings us to another question of how is it possible for the company to have its own profit and loss statement, or will be able to fund Observer+ if the company has stayed dormant for years?”

TOC then provided a screenshot of the ACRA filing for a similarly-named dormant company called “The Black Wilder Group” (TBWG) which they asserted to be one and the same as Blackwilder.

Clarification on the part of Tang

Blackwilder is not a registered entity – this was a miscommunication on Tang’s part during the email interview with CNA.

Internally, Blackwilder is used interchangeably with Rockefeller – the registered entity – to be one and the same. Blackwilder is the brand, while Rockefeller is the legal entity. This is similar to how Straits Times is the brand, while Singapore Press Holdings is the parent entity.

Here’s where TOC got it wrong:

TBWG and Blackwilder, both owned by Azly J. Nor – also the former member of SMRT Feedback – are similarly named but they are not the same entity.

TBWG is a white-hat hacking group that Azly was a part of between 2009 and 2011. You can read one of TBWG’s exploits here.

According to Tang, Blackwilder was set up in 2015 as part of a brand under the legal entity of Rockefeller (not to be confused with the financial advisory firm of the same name) which was registered in the same year.

All business and contracts procured are endorsed under Rockefeller, not Blackwilder, as the latter is not a legal entity.

As per TOC statement, Rockefeller is a live company in Singapore. It does have its own Profit & Loss (P&L) statement which would be adequate to fund Observer+ should the time comes for it to be registered.

According to Tang, the team, however, has not decided if Blackwilder will eventually be set up as a different registered entity to take ownership of Observer+, or for the media entity to come under Rockefeller.

Why is Observer+ unregistered?

Observer+ is a headless entity and currently remains unregistered because it is a pet project with no commercial interests. The project may or may not be shelved – depending on how it performs – which is why registering the entity in the early stages may be risky if there is the potentiality of it being abandoned.

Even then, it will be up to Blackwilder/Rockefeller’s decision on whether they would like to own Observer+ – similar to how an angel investor decides whether or not to invest and co-own a project.

As of now, we can only flex.