How do you bring in more revenue when you’ve got a limited audience? Simple: expand your audience to the world. That’s the approach that some of the biggest newspapers in the world are taking, and the signs appear to be positive.
It’s a natural progression. The Internet brought the world together with the click of a button. And newspapers are increasingly read online. With a focus on developing international editions for audiences around the globe, the revenue boost could be a terrific shot in the arm for papers that are still struggling to capture revenue.
It All Began with the Guardian
Back in 2011, UK paper, The Guardian announced its plans to span the ocean and bring its news in digital format to an American audience. That publication, found at guardiannews.com, was intended to create a “hub for Guardian readers in the US,” and build gradually to grow and modify responsively based on its readership’s preferences.
Their plan of “starting small but thinking big” with the full support of such a large paper as the Guardian backing them, offered a unique bit of freedom to try, try again, and find out what worked. Initially, Janine Gibson of the US Guardian publication said this experiment would test the waters with long-form, real-time journalism, both of which she believed American audiences were receptive to.
It was a risk that paid off, according to Media Life magazine. Their reinvention made guardiannews.com a successful, pioneering publication with a readership that grew rapidly. Within two years, one-third of their readership was American. And the year after that, “the company’s digital revenue increased by 25 percent.” Now it’s one of the top 5 most successful newspaper websites in America.
The New York Times is Primed and Ready
Success such as that of the American Guardian’s digital publication can’t go unnoticed, especially by media giants native to American readers. The New York Times has taxied down the runway and is preparing to take off on their own international expansion, to the tune of about $50 million. In their April 14 announcement, The Times said that it had “formed a new team, NYT Global, to lead the effort.”
They’re confident, too. Regarding such a hefty investment, the Times publisher, chief executive and executive editor told employees in a memo that they were “confident this will be a downpayment on a new era of international growth for our company.”
This isn’t the first time that The Times has expanded. Back in the 90s, it outgrew its local roots to become a highly successful national newspaper. Now it’s time to expand again. Where’s there’s more opportunity for a broader audience, bigger papers are seeking to capitalize on it.
International Expansion Relies Heavily on a Great Digital Product
Reaching a broader audience outside the publications home country doesn’t happen by sheer force of will. The Times already had an excellent digital publication, says Media Life. Unlike many other papers that offer digital, The Times now has more subscribers to their digital product than they do for print.
Where international readers want a solid digital product, publications such as The Times could win big over other local newspapers that aren’t faring as well in those markets. And with their projections to double their digital revenue by 2020, The Times intends to focus on broadening even more to target readers in a younger age bracket than is typical for the publication. That’s in addition to its international efforts.
It’s great timing and strategic planning. This global expansion could help fill the gap between a loss in domestic print revenue and domestic digital revenue that’s growing but hasn’t quite taken up all of the slack where print is falling short, says Media Life. And although The Times has a few genuine domestic rivals, such as the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times, neither one is showing signs of readiness to enter the global market.
There’s Still No Magic Formula
If expanding globally was easy, everyone would jump on the bandwagon. But the chief executive of media giant WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell, tells The Guardian that it’s anything but. “You have to build scale in every market in which you operate,” he explains. Picking up international advertisers takes time and dedication.
But some are finding success. The Mail Online has enjoyed nice increases in revenue, although in 2012 it was suspected that about 60 percent of it came from inside the UK.
As for The Guardian, it recently announced that it would become a “digital first” publication. It’s embracing a collaborative approach working with journalists around the world and sources such as WikiLeaks when it provided “minute-by-minute reporting of events in the Middle East.” Because of it’s forward-thinking approach to digital, it’s one paper that boasts about a 40 percent increase year after year.
With all of the possibilities, branching out into a global market still isn’t for every newspaper. At least not right now. Without an existing strong, vibrant digital product that matches or exceeds the public’s demands and expectations, any effort to branch out would have little hope of catching on. Domestic newspapers need to work on their home game before setting their sights elsewhere.
It’s a great time to be a major player in the newspaper industry. Revenues, while not perfect, are getting better, both through subscriptions and ad revenue. And with a genuine commitment to perfect the digital product and reach an international market, readership possibilities just grew exponentially.