Current Affairs Internet Technology

The Guardian – Ready To Jump?

Big, if somewhat tardy news announced in the British Guardian newspaper:

‘The Guardian will make “significant” job cuts over the next two years in the transition to a “digital-first” strategy, the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has confirmed.

Rusbridger said Guardian News & Media, which publishes the Guardian, Observer and the website network, which includes, would have to reduce its headcount as it aims to save £25m before 2016. GNM employs 1,500 staff across all departments, including 630 journalists.

GNM last week announced plans for a transition to a “digital-first” strategy, which aims to boost digital revenues from a forecast £47m in the current financial year to £91m by 2016.’

Roy Greenslade examines the move in the London Evening Standard:

‘Let’s begin by understanding that the announcement of the change of strategy is, in some ways, a message – to staff, to readers and to advertisers. Given the logic of the company’s moves over the past decade, it could have quietly and methodically moved to a digital future, eschewing any fanfare.

It has obviously gone public to change mind-sets and to generate a new sense of purpose within the company.

GMG is admitting it doesn’t have the digital knowledge to continue the papers’ development. It lacks the resources, talent and innovative expertise for the task. We should see this as an appeal for help in order to change its priorities as effectively as possible.’

He continues,

‘…some worried staff have raised questions about whether it might have been better to have charged its vast online audience for access to the paper’s website… Paywalls have always been anathema to the Guardian’s executives, and rightly so in my opinion.

What the Guardian is belatedly facing up to is the reality of a broken business model that looks unlikely ever to be restored. In many ways, it was the first to spot that problem, so there is an irony in its having waited so long to deal with it.

Clearly, the digital-first strategy is both linked to the publisher’s economic fortunes… positioning GMG for the future when the company believes publishing of newsprint will become untenable.

The big expense for newspapers is in printing and distribution, the moment they become digital-only outlets will transform their economic picture, and GMG’s ambition is to have built an audience and, most importantly, a secure advertising base.’

All very true. The future of what now constitutes print journalism, whether in news and current affairs or other niche markets, is online, with a smaller and smaller presence in the printed medium (a reverse of the present situation, a process already well under way). Handheld devices, of one sort or another, will be become the means of accessing our newspapers, magazines and journals in the future (though expect books to be the last printed form to succumb to the digital revolution).

For the loss-making Guardian, which has seen its online presence outstrip its physical one and with global reach (particularly in the United States), this move is long overdue.

Though one wonders if the announcement of the upcoming Huffington Post UK helped speed things along?

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