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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A swimming pool and a bleeding toe put my medical competency in doubt

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Sometimes the search engine wins. 

The brutal heatwave affecting southern Europe this summer has become known among locals as “Lucifer”. Having just returned from Italy, I fully understand the nickname. An early excursion caused the beginnings of sunstroke, so we abandoned plans to explore the cultural heritage of the Amalfi region and strayed no further than five metres from the hotel pool for the rest of the week.

The children were delighted, particularly my 12-year-old stepdaughter, Gracie, who proceeded to spend hours at a time playing in the water. Towelling herself after one long session, she noticed something odd.

“What’s happened there?” she asked, holding her foot aloft in front of my face.

I inspected the proffered appendage: on the underside of her big toe was an oblong area of glistening red flesh that looked like a chunk of raw steak.

“Did you injure it?”

She shook her head. “It doesn’t hurt at all.”

I shrugged and said she must have grazed it. She wasn’t convinced, pointing out that she would remember if she had done that. She has great faith in plasters, though, and once it was dressed she forgot all about it. I dismissed it, too, assuming it was one of those things.

By the end of the next day, the pulp on the underside of all of her toes looked the same. As the doctor in the family, I felt under some pressure to come up with an explanation. I made up something about burns from the hot paving slabs around the pool. Gracie didn’t say as much, but her look suggested a dawning scepticism over my claims to hold a medical degree.

The next day, Gracie and her new-found holiday playmate, Eve, abruptly terminated a marathon piggy-in-the-middle session in the pool with Eve’s dad. “Our feet are bleeding,” they announced, somewhat incredulously. Sure enough, bright-red blood was flowing, apparently painlessly, from the bottoms of their big toes.

Doctors are used to contending with Google. Often, what patients discover on the internet causes them undue alarm, and our role is to provide context and reassurance. But not infrequently, people come across information that outstrips our knowledge. On my return from our room with fresh supplies of plasters, my wife looked up from her sun lounger with an air of quiet amusement.

“It’s called ‘pool toe’,” she said, handing me her iPhone. The page she had tracked down described the girls’ situation exactly: friction burns, most commonly seen in children, caused by repetitive hopping about on the abrasive floors of swimming pools. Doctors practising in hot countries must see it all the time. I doubt it presents often to British GPs.

I remained puzzled about the lack of pain. The injuries looked bad, but neither Gracie nor Eve was particularly bothered. Here the internet drew a blank, but I suspect it has to do with the “pruning” of our skin that we’re all familiar with after a soak in the bath. This only occurs over the pulps of our fingers and toes. It was once thought to be caused by water diffusing into skin cells, making them swell, but the truth is far more fascinating.

The wrinkling is an active process, triggered by immersion, in which the blood supply to the pulp regions is switched off, causing the skin there to shrink and pucker. This creates the biological equivalent of tyre treads on our fingers and toes and markedly improves our grip – of great evolutionary advantage when grasping slippery fish in a river, or if trying to maintain balance on slick wet rocks.

The flip side of this is much greater friction, leading to abrasion of the skin through repeated micro-trauma. And the lack of blood flow causes nerves to shut down, depriving us of the pain that would otherwise alert us to the ongoing tissue damage. An adaptation that helped our ancestors hunt in rivers proves considerably less use on a modern summer holiday.

I may not have seen much of the local heritage, but the trip to Italy taught me something new all the same. 

This article first appeared in the 17 August 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Trump goes nuclear