Updated: Telegraph Overtakes Guardian On Audience Size; Cue Another Stats Tussle?

Updated: The Joint Industry Committee for Web Standards (Jicwebs) says it will undertake an already-planned review of the tools newspaper sites use to collect traffic data. Telegraph.co.uk’s monitoring effect recently switched to the WebTrends software. ABCe methods are already ratified internationally, but Jicwebs’ focus on variations in the way different software tracks visitors could open a can of worms…

Original: Things could get tasty from here on in, now that today’s latest and most fascinating ABCe returns for April show Guardian.co.uk has been overtaken on unique users by Telegraph.co.uk. Guardian.co.uk had long reigned supreme at the top of the the ABCe chart, which now looks like this…

Telegraph.co.uk (exc. jobs): 18,646,112 (+9.45pc) (66.1pc overseas)
Guardian.co.uk (exc. jobs): 18,546,017 (-0.84pc) (58.1pc overseas)
Mail Online: 18,039,943 (70pc overseas)
Sun Online: 14,068,523 (+2pc) (60.7pc overseas)
Times Online (exc. jobs): 15,406,254 (-4.2pc) (63.4pc overseas)
Mirror Group Digital (inc 14 sites): 4,277,502 (-2.86pc) (40.6pc overseas)

Guardian hackles were raised in ’06 when Telegraph.co.uk ran a high-profile marketing campaign claiming to be “the UK’s most visited newspaper website” – a claim upheld by ad watchdogs, following a complaint from an unnamed individual, because visits is a separate metric from unique users.

Even so, ABCe has been gaining acceptance as the standard audit mechanism for online newspapers, so The Guardian – recently undergoing a £15 million redesign – will be concerned about how this has come to pass. Barring an interrogation of ABCe’s methodology, Telegraph.co.uk will get to trumpet the second set of figures without fear of suspicion.

April figures cap a recent traffic surge for Telegraph.co.uk, which added 4.7 million users in March, leapfrogging Times Online to second despite that title’s own growth. Mail Online, too, has been growing fast in recent months (presumably the reason it decided to submit to the ABCe at all), and now nestles only just behind Guardian.co.uk. There has been a remarkable contraction at the top, with the overall audience growing likely as a result of Guardian.co.uk’s top two rivals picking up new users more quickly. Guardian.co.uk lost 816,112 users in March and a further 157,794 users in April.

Telegraph digital editor Edward Roussel (via emailed release) said the end of the football season had brought more traffic, plus its coverage of the credit crunch and US election and combining video with text. Communities editor Shane Richmond acknowledges the lead may yet change hands between any of the top three.