The Daily Mail, an omniverous middle-market British tabloid, has quietly unseated the New York Times to become the newspaper with the biggest online reach in the world, according to figures from the online tracking service comScore.
The figures show Mail Online reached 45.3 million people last December, to the Times’s 44.8 million. Trailing them are USA Today at , the Tribune newspapers , and the Guardian. The growth, the editor and publisher of the Mail’s online properties, Martin Clarke, said, has been driven by U.S. traffic.
“We just do news that people want to read,” said Clarke. He cited the paper’s middle-class roots and its “Fleet Street heritage” as the source of its “entertaining, engaging way with clear, concise, straightforward copy and lots of good pictures.”
The Mail’s website looks and feels little like the Times’s, or like any other online properties. It’s dense and almost endlessly scrolling, and feels like several newspapers stacked on top of one another. It blends original reporting with sharp rewrite, celebrity gossip and hard news, citing but relatively rarely linking out to other publications.
A spokeswoman for the New York Times, Eileen Murphy, disputed the comScore slice the mail is using to claim the top slot, saying they’ve only passed the times by rolling a personal finance site published by the paper into its total.
“It’s a roll-up of their properties,” she said, arguing that the Times could include Boston Globe properties in its total to beat the Mail. “[W]e remain the # 1 individual newspaper site in the world.”
She also urged BuzzFeed to “take a look” at the homepage of each paper.
“It almost doesn’t need to be said, but The Daily Mail is not in our competitive set,” said Murphy.
In fact, online traffic is notorious for the varying slices that can be taken, and there’s no clear standard. The finance site appears to be more integral to the Mail than the Globe is to the Times, and Clarke stood by his claim of victory.
The startling comScore numbers — an industry standard widely used by publishers and advertisers — are “just underlying that we are now one of the biggest players in terms of Internet news, as is the New York Times – and I’m sure we both will be for a while,” said Clarke.
“Our trajectory, and our momentum, is a lot faster than the New York Times,” he said. “With their paywall it’s flatlined a bit.”
The Mail was relatively late to the online game, launching its website in its current form just over three years ago, and only slowly coming to the conclusion that international traffic could be monetized, Clarke said.
“It began to dawn on us that thinking of domestic audiences on the Internet was pretty stupid,” he said.
The paper put a team of reporters and editors in Los Angeles to cover entertainment in July of 2010 and staffed up a New York office last February. They now have nine editorial staffers in Los Angeles and twenty in New York on any given day, Clarke said.
One key hire, he said: deputy editor Katherine Thomson, poached more than a year ago from what remains the top online news site, Huffington Post, and a pioneer of that site’s all-encompassing coverage.
“She brought a lot of fresh thinking to the party in terms of what we cover,” said Clarke.
The core of its success, though, has been an emotion punch that seems to draw on the U.K. tabloid tradition.
“A good story’s a good story – particularly a good human story,” said Clarke.