Publisher seeks to engage overseas

22 September 2014

SYDNEY: As publishers continue to search after a profitable digital business model, the UK's Guardian newspaper is taking its version overseas, launching in Australia and the US and contemplating moves into India and Africa.

The title recently introduced a membership scheme which it says will allow readers to get closer to the brand and its open journalism philosophy, although at the top level members will pay £60 a month for the privilege. David Pemsel, deputy managing director, said the scheme was not a "pay wall through another means".

In the UK, the Guardian will have a dedicated site next to its London offices where it will hold events and classes. In Australia, it plans to use a series of pop-up events.

"That's about deepening our relationship with our audience but also capturing data and getting people signed up, whether it be to masterclasses or membership," Pemsel told Mumbrella.

"We've got a dating site in the UK which we might roll out beyond the UK as well," he added.

That data is vital to the business model. As Guardian Australia managing director Ian McClelland observed: "If we were competing on an anonymous audience display advertising level they [digital rivals] would be eating our lunch and we'd probably lose that battle against massive sites that use click bait techniques to drive volume."

He explained that the brand was moving towards the use of more data "to do highly targeted campaigns, doing brand partnerships to create integrated campaigns and sponsorship for brands in the language of the Guardian specifically for our audience".

On that point, Pemsel said that content partnerships and native advertising contributed a "considerable" amount of revenue. "Labelling is really important," he stressed. "Being really clear and given our position of trust any form of deception is going to backfire for us and the brand, so we won't go there."

For the future, he observed that the Guardian website saw "big pockets of traffic" from Africa and India and he expected those markets would become a focus.

"In India bizarrely print's growing, and mobile," Pemsel noted. "The desktop browser doesn't really exist at all, so the idea of being able to learn quickly in the mobile space in India is just very interesting."

Data sourced from Mumbrella, Guardian; additional content by Warc staff