Direct Line has attracted the most favourable press coverage for the second month running, according to an independent analysis by Press Watch.

The direct writer tops the October league table of 124 insurance companies in terms of positive editorial coverage with a score of 68 for 29 mentions in the national press.

Direct Line's rating is 28 points ahead of its nearest rival, Primary Direct Travel Insurance, which scored 40 for 15 mentions.

Tim Crane, Press Watch business development manager, described Direct Line's performance as "flattering".

He highlighted two glowing reports in particular. A piece in The Daily Telegraph pinpointing customer satisfaction with Direct Line's range of services. And a Daily Mail article which said the insurer offered value for money.

Direct Line appears to be setting the pace for insurers in November. Interim results show its agreement to refund excess cover and restore its no-claims discount for policyholders has won it widespread coverage.

Crane said a month of eye-catching press coverage has catapulted Primary from 40th place in September to second in October, confirming its status as Direct Line's immediate challenger.

He said: "Its ski holiday insurance is heralded as both inexpensive and retaining a high level of cover. The Daily Telegraph declared Primary Direct as offering a 'lifeline to skiers, giving constant support'."

Third placed Royal & SunAlliance improved on last month's fifth position with another "steady" month of positive national press coverage.

The Observer applauded the insurer's decision to reinstate policyholders' no-claims discount and in The Express, customers are described as being "very pleased" with its service.

CGU dropped one place to fourth, following a reduced volume of press coverage. But Press Watch expects its ranking to improve in November, in the wake of the launch of its new policy for rape victims in South Africa.

Another direct writer, Churchill, rises one place to fifth position due to newspapers' growing interest in its ski and car insurance.

October has been a less rewarding month publicity-wise for some insurers. Norwich Union slips from second last month to sixth, reflecting disappointing coverage of two separate customer wrangles.

The first involved its alleged refusal to pay for the rescue of a stranded skier and the other involved a court defeat over a clause in its car insurance policy. But, on a positive note, it was commended in The Mirror for offering discounts to people over 50.

AA has suffered a more drastic fall, sliding down from fourth to 28th place, such has been the criticism over the comparative cost of its ski insurance.

Endsleigh, the students' insurer, is knocked from 27th to 116th in the wake of an Observer writer's opinion that its competitors offered better deals.

Receiving the wooden spoon for least favourable coverage is HSBC, which attracted only two mentions for its products in October.

In both cases, The Observer expressed concern over the value-for-money of HSBC products.

The other four companies in the bottom five were: Barclays, Ecclesiatical, Northern Rock and NatWest.