Of the three English-language newspaper websites with the highest readerships, two are British.
The number one spot has been occupied since last January by the Mail Online, an industrial-sized feedbag of celebrity titillation and gossip, with a ComScore rating of 50.2 million monthly unique visitors worldwide for May. Currently in at number two is The New York Times, with 46.2 million. Then comes The Guardian, which had 40.9 million last month.
That was before Edward Snowden arrived on the scene. According to internal analytics The Guardian provided to me -- June 10, the day after Snowden revealed his identity on The Guardian's website, was the biggest traffic day in their history, with an astonishing 6.97 million unique browsers. Within a week of publishing the NSA files, The Guardian website has seen a 41-percent increase in U.S. desktop unique visitors (IP addresses loading the desktop site) and a 66-percent rise in mobile traffic. On June 10, for the first time in the paper's history, their U.S. traffic was higher than their UK traffic.
The publication of the NSA documents represented the first time since the publication of the Pentagon Papers in 1971 that "top secret" classified documents were made public - nothing in the files leaked by Bradley Manning to WikiLeaks in 2010 rated higher than "secret." They were leaked by former CIA employee Edward Snowden to The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald, and a veteran team of reporters led by Editor-in-Chief of Guardian US Janine Gibson was convened to shape the raw data into the story. I met Gibson for an interview in The Guardian's airy SoHo loft office on Wednesday. It is furnished identically to the paper's London headquarters in Kings Cross, where I worked during 2009-11; white walls, shiny new iMacs and orthopaedic chairs. The staff is comparatively small -- Guardian US employs just 57 people, 29 of them journalists.