The FINANCIAL -- If someone is an internet user, there’s a decent chance they are reading
the newspaper online. According to comScore, 644 million people
worldwide visited online newspaper sites this October, which it
estimates to be 42.6% of the world’s internet users. As their business models continue to tilt away from print and toward digital, newspaper outlets around the world are competing to win the attention of this large and growing audience.
The leader, by sheer size of audience, may be a surprise to hard-news junkies: the Mail Online, the web outlet of the London-based Daily Mail. The Mail Online’s website attracted over 50 million unique visitors in October, comScore said, the most of any online newspaper. As emarketer Inc. said, despite a partial paywall instituted in 2011, websites affiliated with The New York Times ranked second, attracting over 48 million unique visitors, followed by two other well-established outlets, The Guardian and Tribune newspapers.
The appearance on the list of People’s Daily Online (fifth) and Xinhua News Agency (seventh) attest to the growing size and engagement of China’s internet news audience.
The Mail Online does not share much in common with its print sibling The Daily Mail, and unlike The New York Times or The Guardian, does not feature much in the way of original reporting on its website. Yet it has managed to grab a bigger share of the online audience than either of those organizations through its relentless focus on catering to the tastes of its global audience.
The Daily Mail’s editor, Paul Dacre, told The New Yorker in April that he thought the Mail Online was succeeding because it had identified a large niche in the news market:
“At its best, American journalism is unbeatable. But the problem with many of your newspapers is that they became too high-minded, too complacent, and self-regarding … They forgot that there’s a huge market out there of people who are serious-minded but also want some fun in their reading.”
The pressure for newspaper websites to attract large and lucrative audiences is only going to increase. In the US, emarketer estimates that newspaper print ad revenue will decline and newspaper digital ad revenue will increase in each of the next four years.