A brief glance at the graph below shows alarming commonality among the performance of UK newspapers online – decline.
One plausible explanation is that audiences always fall during August when much of the country disappears on holiday at some point in the month. It manifests itself in a number of ways in print – trade publications often drop an issue or two while hard news gives way to the silly season inside the nationals.
But I’m not sure the silly season effect has ever been fully proven online. Anecdotally, all the web titles I’ve been involved in have seen traffic hold up well over the summer.
Unfortunately, a direct comparison with 2008 doesn’t shed much light.
Thirteen months ago most digital papers were enjoying a Beijing bump. The Olympic Games – coupled with a war in Georgia that made the season anything but silly – were at the heart of some pretty impressive month-to-month increases.
Most notable were the Guardian (unique users up 12%) and the Telegraph (up 18% and through the 20 million barrier for the first time). Intriguingly, the Mail Online – the clear king of the web in 2009 – suffered a 7% decline.
No such worry a year on, especially with headlines like this.