New Statesman announces record web traffic figures

NewStatesman.com is now Britain's biggest political website, with more than three million pageviews in the month of January.

The New Statesman is now Britain's biggest political website - just in time for the title's centenary.

The New Statesman, founded in 1913, was the first British periodical to go online - all the way back in 1995. In the last four years, since its relaunch, the website's traffic has risen sharply. It increased 231 per cent between the fourth quarter of 2009 and the first quarter of 2012.

Since then, traffic has risen another 44 per cent, and in January the site recorded 1.15 million monthly unique users and 3.35 million page impressions. 

This makes NewStatesman.com the country's biggest political website, far outstripping rivals such as The Spectator (350,000 monthly unique users); ProspectIainDale.com (which recorded around 250,000 monthly uniques in the heyday of its previous incarnation); Political Scrapbook, Labour List, Conservative Home and Guido Fawkes (which recorded 117,494 visitors in the week ending 2 February, compared with the New Statesman's 243,937 uniques).

The New Statesman's traffic growth has been driven by online-only scoops such as George Galloway's comments on rape and reporting such as Helen Lewis's investigation of the online abuse of blogger Anita Sarkeesian (with her initial blogs on the subject each attracting more than 160,000 views).

Alongside the site's core - the unmissable Staggers blog, edited by George Eaton - there are a range of distinctive voices writing regular blogs. The NS online mixes investigative reporting - such as David Allen Green's coverage of Julian Assange and the Nightjack case, and Alan White's series on outsourcing, The Shadow State - with witty, irreverent and incisive social commentary from writers such as The Vagenda, Alex Andreou and Glosswitch. The site has carved out its own online identity, which complements the print magazine but is distinct from it. 

The New Statesman currently publishes all its magazine content online, free a week after print publication. Often, these pieces - such as Steven Poole's essays on "neurobollocks" and "cyber-gurus", or Jemima Khan's piece on Wikileaks - attracted thousands of tweets, Facebook likes and other traffic through social networks such as StumbleUpon and Reddit. The New Statesman also recently launched a Tumblr page.

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Appearing in a book is strange – being an actual character must be stranger

Much as it jolts me to come across a reference to my music in something I'm reading, at least it's not me.

I was happily immersed in the world of a novel the other day, Rachel Elliott’s Whispers Through a Megaphone, when suddenly I was jolted back into reality by my own appearance in the book. One of the characters hears someone singing and is told, “‘It’s Leonora. She sings with her window open.’ ‘She’s good – sounds like Tracey Thorn.’ ‘She does, doesn’t she.’”

It was as if I’d walked on stage while still being in the audience. It’s happened to me before, and is always startling, a kind of breaking of the fourth wall. From being the reader, addressed equally and anonymously, you become, even momentarily, a minor character or a representative of something. In this instance it was flattering, but the thing is, you have no control over what the writer uses you to mean.

In David Nicholls’s Starter for Ten, set in the mid-Eighties, the lead character, Brian – a hapless student, failing in both love and University Challenge – hopes that he is about to have sex with a girl. “We stay up for an hour or so, drinking whisky, sitting on the bed next to each other and talking and listening to Tapestry and the new Everything But the Girl album.” Ah, I realised, here I represent the kind of singer people listen to when they’re trying, though possibly failing, to get laid.

Fast-forward a few years, to the mid-Nineties of Bret Easton Ellis’s Glamorama, a book constructed from lists of people and things, clothes and music, which apparently indicate the vacuousness of modern life. “I dash into the Paul Smith store on Bond Street, where I purchase a smart-looking navy-gray raincoat. Everything But the Girl’s ‘Missing’ plays over everything” and later, “In the limo heading toward Charing Cross Road Everything But the Girl’s ‘Wrong’ plays while I’m studying the small white envelope . . .” Here I’m being used to represent the way bands become briefly ubiquitous: our songs are a soundtrack to the sleazy glamour of the novel.

These mentions are all fine; it’s only the music that features, not me. Spotting yourself as an actual character in someone’s novel must be more shocking: one of the perils of, for instance, being married to a novelist. I think of Claire Bloom and Philip Roth. First she wrote a memoir about how ghastly it was being married to him, then he wrote a novel about how ghastly it was to be married to someone very like her. Books as revenge: that’s very different indeed.

Few people who had ever met Morrissey emerged from his memoir unscathed (me included), but particularly Geoff Travis of Rough Trade. He was hung, drawn and quartered in the book, yet seems to have maintained a dignified silence. But it’s hard knowing how to deal with real people in memoirs. In mine, I chose not to name one character, a boy who broke my 18-year-old heart. Feverish speculation among old friends, all of whom guessed wrong, proved how much attention they’d been paying to me at the time. I also wrote about my teenage band, the Marine Girls, and then sent the chapter to the other members for approval. Which led to a fresh outbreak of hostilities and not-speaking, 25 years after we’d broken up. Don’t you just love bands?

Worrying about any of this would stop anyone ever writing anything. Luckily it didn’t deter John Niven, whose scabrous music-biz novel, Kill Your Friends, mixes larger-than-life monsters such as the fictional A&R man Steven Stelfox with real people: and not just celebs (Goldie, the Spice Girls), but record company executives (Ferdy Unger-Hamilton, Rob Stringer) known best to those of us in the biz, and presumably thrilled to have made it into a book. John confirmed to me recently: “In the end I got more grief from people I left out of the book than those I put in. Such is the ego of the music industry. I heard of one executive who bought about 30 copies and would sign them for bands, saying, ‘This was based on me.’ You create the Devil and people are lining up to say, ‘Yep. I’m that guy.’”

In other words, as I suspected, there’s only one thing worse than being written about. 

Tracey Thorn is a musician and writer, best known as one half of Everything but the Girl. She writes the fortnightly “Off the Record” column for the New Statesman. Her latest book is Naked at the Albert Hall.

This article first appeared in the 06 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The longest hatred