BBC and Mail Online fight it out in the battle for online popularity stakes

The Daily Mail’s website, Mail Online, and the BBC have become embroiled in a war of words on who is top dog in online popularity.

Media website Press Gazette reports that the BBC insists that its news website remains more popular than Mail Online – “flatly contradicting a statement put out by the newspaper.”

Citing figures from Comscore, Mail Online claimed 44.7m unique global visitors in June – which it said gave it a 35% lead on the BBC News website.

However, the BBC has hit back – saying Mail Online’s figures do not include traffic from the sport, weather and World Service parts of the BBC's news offering.

When these are included, the BBC said that Comscore gives it a tally of 57.4m unique browsers – well ahead of Mail Online.

A BBC spokesman told Press Gazette: “In Q1 of 2012 the BBC News website was visited by an average of 39m unique browsers each week worldwide. In the UK, the BBC uses weekly figures as opposed to monthly because we see them as more accurate.

“The Comscore figures quoted by the Daily Mail for BBC News do not include content from other parts of BBC Online such as Sport, Weather and the World Service, which also form part of our news and information services to audiences.

“Taking these into account, Comscore’s overall figure for the BBC website shows that it was visited by 57.4million unique browsers in June.”

The battle in the popularity stakes began with Mail Online claiming to have substantially more online readers globally than BBC News.

Last week, ABC released figures stating that Mail Online attracted 93.7m global ‘unique browsers’ in June – making it the most popular UK newspaper website by some margin.

Quoting figures from Comscore, which uses a survey-based method in addition to information from publishers’ computers, Mail Online claimed it had 44.7m monthly unique visitors in June.

This makes Mail Online the most popular newspaper website in the world according to Comscore, which gave the next-rated New York Times 38.1m unique visitors that month.

According to Mail Online, the Comscore data also gives the title a strong lead on the BBC with 35%more monthly unique visitors globally than BBC News.The BBC does not release monthly web traffic data.

Mail Online also revealed that 549,243 users accessed the paper’s iPhone app in June and that 239,741 did so every day.It claimed a further 261,476 unique visitors for its Android app in June, some 70,584 of whom accessed it every day.

Citing data from another web metrics company, Hitwise, Mail Online claimed that it attracted 43% of visits to UK national newspaper websites in June versus somewhere between 10 and 15% for, The Telegraph and The Sun.

Patrick Smith, editor of website the briefing media, commented; “The overall traffic figures don’t really matter. Whether BBC or Mail Online has more online monthly unique users is neither here nor there.

“How many users come back repeatedly throughout the day? How many people go straight to the URL versus those who come in through Google and go straight back out again. For the Mail, how many click on ads or might buy the product the site offers?

"The pursuit of reach doesn’t correlate that well with an increase in revenue. Besides, there’s a real danger in assuming that unique users equates to real people – it doesn’t. The BBC is also right to say weekly figures are more accurate."