Guardian pulled in 15.1 million unique users, ahead of Times Online (8.5 million), Sun Online (7.8 million) and Telegraph.co.uk (7.4 million).
Attacks came from The Guardian and The Times earlier this year when Telegraph.co.uk unveiled a poster marketing campaign claiming to be the "UK's most visited" newspaper website. That claim was based on Hitwise data predicated on a "number of visits" metric, which could include multiple visits from the same user, and was upheld by an Advertising Standards Agency ruling yesterday.
While competing metrics operate, today's figures, which report the actual number of unique users, include overseas users and only include submissions from four online titles, do not change the validity of boasts from rival publishers, with each title maintaining its placing from the previous ABCe report.
However, the data paints a mixed picture. Times Online's 8.5 million monthly users in March was a fall from January's record 10.9 million spike, despite the launch of a feature-rich new website in the intervening month, while Sun Online's 7.8 million users was a fall from eight million in the prior month.
Both Guardian Unlimited and Telegraph.co.uk gained. While Guardian Unlimited, on 15.1 million users, posted its second highest ever ABCe numbers, and a large rise from February's 13.7 million, Telegraph.co.uk's 7.4 million users was also an increase, from 7.2 million in February.
Association of Online Publishers chair Simon Waldman, also digital director at Guardian Media Group, had previously called on the industry to unify behind the ABCe metric. An ABCe spokesman today told Journalism.co.uk it was important to ensure figures were independently audited.
The Sun and The Telegraph.co.uk reported their largest user base on 12 March, while The Guardian spiked on 5 March and Times Online saw its traffic on 19 March increase by almost half on the previous day.
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