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May 28, 2021updated 30 Sep 2022 10:18am

Mirror and Sun both claim to be the UK’s most-read newspaper brand online (while other data puts MailOnline top)

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Mirror and The Sun are both claiming to the UK’s most-read online newspaper brand.

The Mirror announced it had overtaken the Sun in April as it cited figures from Comscore to record 32m multi-platform unique visitors to its red-top rival’s 31.7m.

However The Sun argues that its total brand reach (as tracked by Comscore) is higher, at 33.98m.

Comscore has recently lost its position as the official industry-standard metric for measuring online audiences. Its replacement, Ipsos Iris, has not yet published any data.

Reach group editor-in-chief Lloyd Embley (pictured, right, with Sun counterpart Victoria Newton) said the figures showed “just how hard the Mirror teams have worked every day for their readers, delivering everything from political scoops to breaking sports and entertainment” despite a challenging year because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We don’t plan to rest on our laurels either,” Embley said. “If we’ve learned anything from the past year it’s the need to adapt, so watch this space as the Mirror continues to find new ways to engage its readers.”

Comscore figures provided to Press Gazette for April 2021 show The Sun still ahead of the Mirror when you take its entire brand score.

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The Sun declined to comment but pointed out that the Comscore figures for mirror.co.uk and thesun.co.uk are not like-for-like comparisons. Its app figures are not included in this metric.

Comscore lets its clients choose what to include in their various metrics, depending on how they want to reflect their organisational structure or how they sell advertising.

Both mirror.co.uk and thesun.co.uk include traffic from Scotland but each argue this is marginal as their Scottish readers largely visit the separate websites for the Daily Record (instead of the Mirror) and the Scottish Sun.

The total brand figures do incorporate brand extensions, which for the Sun include its fantasy football and bingo offerings.

The Mirror became the second biggest UK newspaper website behind the Sun in the summer of 2019 and said then: “If the Sun isn’t already feeling us nipping at their heels, they should be.”

Reach, which also owns the Daily Star and Express brands, kept its position as the UK’s largest commercial digital news publisher in April, growing 2% to 42.3m unique visitors – the only group not to see year-on-year decline.

It also continued to rank first in the sports category, reaching 14.2m with its coverage in April.

UK news group traffic (millions) for April 2021 (Comscore):

Multi-platform newspaper group Unique visitors Year-on-year % change
Reach Group 42,282 2
News UK 38,298 -6
Mail Online/Daily Mail 37,098 -6
ESI Media (Independent/Evening Standard) 27,325 -25
The Guardian 26,933 -23
Telegraph Media Group 20,989 -22

Some publishers prefer to look at Similarweb data over Comscore.

Comscore uses a combination of user panels and web/app tags to, it says, “correct biases of each methodology and deliver accurate person-level audiences on multiple platforms”.

SimilarWeb generates its traffic data by applying machine learning and modelling to statistically representative datasets that the company collects. Datasets are based on direct measurement (i.e. websites and apps that choose to share first-party analytics with SimilarWeb), contributory networks that aggregate device data, partnerships, and public data extraction from websites and apps.

Similarweb figures for April seen by Press Gazette put UK unique visitors for dailymail.co.uk on 21.34m, thesun.co.uk on 17.03m and mirror.co.uk on 16.83m.

This includes a deduplicated UK audience of 18.86m at the Mail, 15.19m at the Mirror and 14.9m at the Sun.

Press Gazette’s unique ranking for the UK’s top 50 websites by number of monthly visits (rather than visitors) puts MailOnline, Guardian and Express all ahead of The Sun and Mirror sites. 

[Read more: Find all Press Gazette’s audience data stories here]

Pictures: News UK and Reach

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