Telegraph.co.uk puts Guardian on the defensive

The%20Telegraph%20newspaperA raft of new developments in the Telegraph Media Group’s (TMG) digital armoury is finally bearing fruit, after Telegraph.co.uk for the first time toppled Guardian.co.uk from the number one position it has for so long occupied.

Last week the latest Audit Bureau of Circulations Electronic (ABCe) figures for April revealed that Telegraph.co.uk pipped the Guardian News & Media site to the post, with a 153% rise year on year in unique users to 18.6 million. This was ahead of Guardian.co.uk’s 22.25% rise to 18.5 million.

The dramatic jump in its number of unique users has drawn scepticism from rivals. In response, the Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards, the advisory body for the ABCe, is now reviewing the Web measurement standard for newspaper websites.

Yet TMG general manger of digital Mike Moore says a combination of “strong editorial content”, “expert opinion” and a new digital strategy is starting to pay off.

More for Moore

The company earlier this month announced a restructure bringing all its digital operations under the control of Moore, previously executive director of consumer markets. He has been charged with driving TMG’s monetisation strategy for digital content.

The industry is also starting to see what Howard Clare has been working on. He was appointed director of Telegraph commerce in March this year (MW.co.uk, March 28). Telegraph.co.uk is set to roll out a number of ecommerce services designed to create new revenue channels beyond advertising.

These are believed to include gaming, shopping and price comparison. Earlier this year TMG also launched an in-house production department to expand its online offering to advertisers. Carat Digital account director Tim Lawrence says the introduction of Telegraph TV on its site is an example of how the paper’s “quality and heritage has been applied to a new medium to good effect”, while it has also redesigned important channels on its site such as its travel section.

A Guardian News & Media (GNM) spokesman says it is not surprised by its competitor’s rise, but adds Guardian.co.uk is far from being complacent. “We have anticipated a narrowing of the gap and some overlap for some time now. Over the past 18 months our focus has been on redesigning our platform for the future,” he says.

Nonetheless, Mark Syal, head of Walker-I, says seeing Guardian.co.uk lose its lead is a “shock”. “The Guardian has been the top for years. Everyone regards its strategy as the right one and it is. But there are more Telegraph and Times [newspaper] readers than Guardian readers so there is that potential for the Telegraph and the Times to deliver more online due to their bigger, traditional audience base,” he says.

Meanwhile, Associated Newspapers’ recently relaunched Mail Online is not far behind the leading two with 18 million unique users, according to the latest ABCe figures.

UK stance

The Guardian does still lead among UK unique users, with 7.76 million, compared with the Telegraph’s 6.3 million. And perhaps these figures are the ones media buyers are most interested in when deliberating over spend for their local clients.

Syal says he would like to see an increase in the still relatively low viewing figures for TMG’s Telegraph TV service, as well as Guardian.co.uk “fighting back” and Mail Online doing more to “grab attention”.

The GNM spokesman warns: “In the coming months we will focus on increased audience engagement and continue to provide more award-winning quality journalism.”

Many observers say that with competition among the sites tougher than ever before, which one will be in the top spot by the end of the year is far from a foregone conclusion.

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