The BBC News website yesterday recorded its best ever day for online traffic, according to the editor of the Today programme.
Speaking at the London School Economics’ Polis Journalism Conference, Jamie Angus revealed that 23m people across the UK and beyond visited the BBC News site on 26 March.
He said this was likely driven by coverage of the Germanwings aircraft crash and the departure of Zayn Malik from One Direction.
The top number of unique users recorded by Mail Online, the world’s biggest newspaper website, so far this year – when its figures have been higher than ever – was on 5 February when 18m visited the site, according to ABC.
Also speaking at the event, Buzzfeed UK deputy editor Jim Waterson claimed his website has recorded more than 23m unique users worldwide on several days.
Angus said: “The BBC News website yesterday clocked its highest ever unique user number, if you combine the domestic and foreign websites.
“And 23 million people… used the BBC News website yesterday.”
He added: “Before we get too high-minded about this, we think this is driven in great part by the departure of Zayn from One Direction, and another aspect [was] obviously by the extraordinary German Wings story.”
Waterson later said: “If we’re talking numbers now, I think we’ve definitely done more than 23m uniques in a day on several occasions.”
Last May, a report commissioned by the BBC recommended that it should look to the success of Buzzfeed as it attempts to double its a global audience to 500m by 2022.
Director of news and current affairs James Harding commissioned a report by Sir Howard Stringer in December 2013. The former chief executive of Sony was reported this month to be a favourite to replace Lord Patten as chairman of the BBC Trust.
Stringer said the BBC is “punching well below its weight in the digital world”, noting that its peak online audience figures outside the UK stand at 150m monthly unique users in March 2014, “a big news month”.
While he noted that this is more than CNN and around the same as the Mail Online’s exclusively English-language traffic for a month, he pointed out that Buzzfeed’s peak stands at 160m.
“Given Buzzfeed, for example, was only founded in 2006, this raises the question of why the BBC’s global digital reach is not more significant,” he said.
“It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the BBC is punching well below its weight in the digital world.
“If the target weekly reach of 500 million is to be met, digital is going to be very important and a [steep] change needs to be made to make the most of it.”