Newspapers must unite on web traffic figures

That old adage that football sells newspapers seems to have taken a knock — or indeed a headbutt in the chest — following publication of the June ABC figures.

The World Cup, upon which many a Fleet Street hope was pinned, had evidently not caused the morale-boosting sales surge that many had hoped.

Just two dailies showed year-on-year growth — and one of them was the FT, for which sport is not a crucial part of the mix.

But what about their websites, into which much resource was pumped for the tournament as they battled for online readers?

Well the truth is that it's very hard to tell.

The only national newspaper group to have a published figure for June is The Guardian, whose number of website "users" actually dropped to just over 12 million from more than 13 million in May.

Year on year, though, it's probably showing a rise since June 2005. Probably, because it did not publish a figure for "users" in that month. The Times and The Daily Telegraph haven't published web traffic figures for June 2006, so we can only go on their April and May figures respectively.

It's a confusing picture — which is a pity, because overall the growth of traffic to newspaper websites in the past few years is one of the few areas in which the industry has a generally positive story to tell.

Until all newspaper groups unite to publish comparable statistics for their sites, as a matter of course and on a regular basis, the wider media world will not appreciate the phenomenal growth in those audiences.

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