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April 11, 2022updated 30 Sep 2022 11:13am

National World becomes JPI Media’s biggest website in a year with 20 million monthly page views

By Andrew Kersley

The National World news website has become JPI Media’s biggest by page views a year after its launch, overtaking The Scotsman.

In a year National World has gone from 3.5 million page views per month in April 2021 to almost 20 million, according to Google Analytics.

It saw a particular surge in recent months, from 16.4 million in February to 19.3 million in March. It was the fourth fastest-growing news brand in the UK month-on-month in February, after only the New York Times, Reuters News and Tom’s Guide.

By comparison The Scotsman had 14.9 million page views in February and 11.7 million in March. In addition National World had 13.8 million users in March compared to The Scotsman’s 6.5 million.

National World’s editor Nick Mitchell, who previously helped to launch the i’s website in 2016 when it was owned by JPI, told Press Gazette: “I think that there probably was a gap in the market in the UK for a site that was more explainer-led when it comes to the news agenda.

“We’ve seen with a younger audience especially it’s kind of what they’re looking for,” he added, citing that 60% of National World’s audience is under the age of 45. “As journalists, we maybe assume too much knowledge [among audiences] sometimes.”

Citing the most recent Comscore data from February, Mitchell said National World boasts a digital audience (5.2 million unique visitors) more than half the size of Metro (9.9 million) and almost half the size of the i (11.9 million).

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Comscore data differs from Google Analytics as it does not include any overseas visitors and de-duplicates across multiple devices to count unique visitors only.

Mitchell also noted that National World’s audience was “already more than 25% of The Independent”. The company’s chief executive David Montgomery told Press Gazette last year he saw the new site as the equivalent of The Independent but with a less London-centric focus.

As a result of its audience growth, the brand is now reporting breaking even financially, with plans to become profitable next year.

National World

National World editor Nick Mitchell. Picture: Nick Mitchell

Like many publishers, Mitchell said unprecedented levels of interest in the Ukraine conflict were driving substantially increased traffic, saying National World had 1.5 million views on 24 February, the day of the invasion.

But unlike many of those publishers, including The Scotsman, National World did not see a reduction in traffic in March as reader interest in Ukraine generally started to wane. The outlet’s 19.3m page views in March were a 2.9m increase from the month before.

National World plc, the website’s parent company, is headed by experienced media executive David Montgomery and bought JPI Media, the UK’s third-largest local news publisher, at the start of 2021 for £10.2m.

The deal included 13 regional and city daily newspapers and more than 100 other brands in print and online. The group later launched the National World news title in March, as well as a slew of new regional websites.

Mitchell said National World’s “distributed newsroom” of journalists working remotely or in JPI’s regional newsrooms in Edinburgh, Leeds and Sheffield may have given the brand an “advantage” over others that may force journalists to live and work in London.

“We don’t necessarily need a north of England correspondent, we don’t need a Scotland correspondent, because the majority of the team is spread across different parts of the UK,” Mitchell said.

“We’ve launched a series of seven websites across different cities. So if there is a major incident in one of those cities, we can link up very rapidly with the local team and support each other.” Those seven city sites report on London, Liverpool, Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Glasgow and Newcastle.

He added: “We are a national brand, but we’ve really got that regional expertise that helps with coverage… Part of the reason for our success comes down to the fact that we can say to someone ‘you don’t have to be based in London’.

“They can be based anywhere in the UK and will have the option of working in a hybrid way. Perhaps that gives us an advantage.”

The company National World has said it does not use page view or output targets for journalists, something common at many regional news brands. A senior company insider previously accused rivals Reach and Newsquest of treating their journalists like “battery hens”.

“We will not say to journalists ‘you need to produce X amount of stories’, we don’t have a quota when it comes to the volume,” said Mitchell. “I think we initially thought the volume would be a key factor. But I think that’s less so now. It’s all about quality.”

National World had a team of 27 editorial staff when it launched in March 2021, largely drawn from JPI’s regional titles like the Yorkshire Evening Post and The Scotsman.

The team has since grown to 36 staff, with three vacancies currently being advertised.

On Google, the main source of the brand’s growing audience, Mitchell said: “The main shop window for a new brand like us has certainly been Google. I think it’s by far our biggest referral source… It’s more of a level playing field than social media.”

He added: “The one thing that they really emphasise at the moment is expertise, authority and trust… And if you can give them that, then I think you’ve got a better chance of doing well, rather than just with that sort of churn journalism style of reporting.”

Social media has been more of a “challenging area” according to Mitchell. National World currently has just above 2,300 followers on Twitter and 4,000 on Facebook.

Mitchell said the website will be getting investment from the company to grow its social media over the coming year, as well as expanding its newsletter offering. National World currently has three dedicated newsletters, with a total of 10,000 subscribers.

Picture: National World

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