Summary:

Having watched the rise of Britain’s Mail Online over the last year, tongues are wagging that, in 2011, it could overtake The New York Times…

Having watched the rise of Britain’s Mail Online over the last year, tongues are wagging that, in 2011, it could overtake The New York Times (NYSE: NYT) as the world’s most-visited newspaper website.

comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) stats from the last half-year suggest the following: hold your horses

Global users to Mail Online may have grown by 14.5 percent in the last six months, but NYTimes.com was no slouch either; it also found 11.4 percent more users, according to comScore. Mail Online (32.7 million users) still sits way behind NYTimes.com (50.5 million).

The thing that could change all that is NYTimes.com’ introduction of a metered paid model in the New Year, which will likely reduce that site’s traffic by some degree, perhaps to below that of the Mail. The Mail is hiring U.S. staff for an expansion there to embrace the opportunity it has found itself with.

How much does any of this matter? With its emphasis on poppy, celebrity stories and pictures, Mail Online is a very different beast from NYTimes.com, with its geo-political news and high-end advertisers like Cartier and IBM…

When you consider addressable market, and addressable advertisers, the two aren’t necessarily swimming in the same pond, across the pond. Still, inhabitants of Britain’s Fleet Street do like to compare the sizes of their respective armoury – so, yes, Mail Online could well overtake NYTimes.com for the top slot.

Footnote: Mail Online itself claimed 50.3 million uniques in October – 40 percent up from January. Its own, ABC-audited metrics, compiled from server logs, differ from those of comScore, which uses a panel of two million worldwide users and an internet census. NYTCo tells paidContent:UK it considers comScore the official measurement of its traffic, however.

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