The world’s most popular online newspaper? The Daily Mail.

The world’s most popular online newspaper is not the New York Times, USA Today, or the Wall Street Journal. You may not have ever visited it on purpose. If you’re American, you may not have even heard of it. It’s the Daily Mail.

When online traffic counter comScore announced last week that the lower-middlebrow British tabloid had surpassed the NYT in traffic, drawing 45.3 million unique visitors to the Gray Lady’s 44.8 million, reactions ranged from gleeful to apocalyptic. The Times, rather ungraciously, questioned the metrics. The Daily Mail is first only if you count the traffic to its subsidiary personal finance site, ThisIsMoney, a Times spokeswoman pointed out. Since the Times’ figures don’t include traffic to subsidiaries such as the Boston Globe, the comparison is apples to apples-plus-oranges. “We remain the No. 1 individual newspaper site in the world,” the spokeswoman told Buzzfeed.

Console yourself with that if you must, Times honchos, but you’re missing the bigger picture. In the sentence, “The Daily Mail is now the most popular online newspaper,” the “most popular” claim is the least of the misnomers. The most important thing to know about the Daily Mail’s website (more properly called the Mail Online) is that it’s not really an online newspaper. That’s exactly why it’s so successful.

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