By Amy Ronge
The Mail Online has splashed a whopping £1million on purchasing the dailymail.com domain name as it bids to increase its standing as the world’s most-read news website, and with recent news breaking of its merger with metro.co.uk, Mail Online has moved to further increase the ever widening gap in reach between them and the rest of their media rivals.
But could its bold plan of switching to a .com backfire and allow rival news organisations the chance to steal a share of its audience?
The owners of the newspaper – the DM Group – say they’ve opted to switch from a .co.uk domain to a .com one to accelerate the worldwide growth of the Mail Online site and cement its position in the US market.
They also claim a move to a .com home will help extend Mail Online’s reach further into Asia, and with over 70% of its traffic already coming from outside the UK, many would say this is a smart move. The site has seen record highs: in November 2013, it surpassed 168 million monthly unique global browsers.
However, while outwardly the shift to a .com domain signifies expansion and growth, the Mail Online may not see an immediate spike in traffic. Think back to when the Guardian switched from .co.uk to .com – its traffic dropped. Econsultancy reported in October 2013 that the Guardian may have faced problems with its domain name migration, citing a drop in referral traffic from Google as a potential cause of the fall.
So, if the same happens to the Mail Online, then what might the consequences be?
Rivals overtake the Mail
There are already a few rivals snapping at the Mail’s heels that would jump at the chance to overtake.
Capital New York’s Joe Pompeo made a good case for Mail Online number one ‘archenemy’, the Daily News. He said:
“…lately, Mail Online has been feeling an unexpected thorn in its side. Over the past two months, five journalists from Mail Online’s Soho-based Manhattan operation have quit to go work at the Daily News, which is beginning to nip at Mail Online’s heels in the race for U.S. web traffic.”
The similarities between the two sites’ homepages are uncanny – is it testament to the Mail Online that the Daily News feels that it needs to up the ante? Roy Greenslade lent his thoughts to Pompeo’s article, and said:
“The need for an established U.S. title to poach staff from a British interloper shows Mail Online’s immense impact…It confirms the Mail’s success, but also shows the determination of the Daily News to fight back.”
Celebrity news sites regain crown
TMZ and Radar Online, although more focused on pure celebrity news, may swoop in and take a significant chunk of the Mail’s celebrity-focused following. A huge proportion of the Mail’s stories focus on celebs both Stateside and in the UK, and should it suffer a dip in traffic when the move happens, an opening could emerge for these smaller but immensely popular US-based sites to grab a slice of the pie.
However, the Mail Online has a growing army of writers at its disposal to feed the ‘beast’, so any dip in traffic is likely to be temporary as it pulls in its staff to write even more content. It does need to be careful of the not-so-quiet rumblings of the ‘churnalism v journalism’ storm though. As the Mail grows in size, words shared by Roy Greenslade in his Guardian column recently ring true louder than ever. He wrote:
“There cannot be any doubt that Mail Online is the most comprehensive redistributor of news and features content in the UK and, arguably, the world. It has devoted enormous resources to the task. Ranks of young journalists have been hired to rewrite copy gleaned from the websites of rival newspapers, often within minutes of them appearing on screen.”
So – it’s got its content ‘creation’ sorted. One thing that I don’t think the Mail has the upper hand on yet though is video. The adoring Mail fans flock to the site for up-to-the-minute breaking news and juicy gossip, but not necessarily to watch video, and whilst video makes an appearance, it’s not a prominent feature. Other sites have that far better pegged than the Mail, so this could be its one small ‘watch out’ and certainly something to keep an eye on.
For now though, the Mail Online has found a formula that works: churn out stories, worry about the edits later, and watch the numbers grow.