As the UK Daily Mail readies for its assault on the Australian market, a survey of news website traffic shows dramatic fluctuations among the big players over the past year. The ABC, The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph were the big winners while the Herald Sun, The Age and Ninemsn recorded the biggest declines. The rankings, based on Nielsen unique audience data for September-November, suggest two key findings. First: with a smart strategy, putting up a paywall need not crater your website traffic. And secondly, the Gillard government’s decision to amend the ABC charter to include digital services was far more significant than it seemed at the time. The ABC's booming online presence did not cause the commercial media's woes, but it is another headache for outlets desperately chasing digital eyeballs. Populist News Corp Australia site News.com.au rose from third to first under the leadership of editor Luke McIlveen. No wonder Mail Online has poached him to run its Australian operation next year. News.com.au nabbed top spot in April and held on for six consecutive months. The site's rise was helped by News’ decision to close opinion site The Punch in March and integrate it into News.com.au.

Nielsen online ratings: unique audience September-November