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Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Guardian Going Digital First



Major news. The Guardian, which has an audience of 50 million uniques a month, is following in the foosteps of John Paton's innovative "Digital First" philosophy. Paton, the publisher of the Journal Register Company,  has more than 324 online and print publications serving over 900 communities in 10 states. Paton's presentation at the INMA Transformation of News Summit in Cambridge last december is the stuff of legend, a veritable road map for legacy media on how to navigate the digital age. From The Guardian:

Guardian News & Media (GNM), publisher of the Guardian, has revealed plans to become a digital-first organisation, placing open journalism on the web at the heart of its strategy.

Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of GNM, and Andrew Miller, chief executive of parent company Guardian Media Group (GMG), today outlined to staff a major transformation programme in response to "inexorable trends" in media consumption.

Rusbridger told employees that GNM would "move beyond the newspaper, shifting focus, effort and investment towards digital, because that is our future".
Miller said GNM was "embarking on a major transformation that will see us change from a print-based organisation to one that is digital-first in philosophy and practice".
Rusbridger said: "Every newspaper is on a journey into some kind of digital future. That doesn't mean getting out of print, but it does require a greater focus of attention, imagination and resource on the various forms that digital future is likely to take.

"The Guardian has consistently led the way on digital innovation and is currently showing year on year growth of 40 per cent. We are expanding into America and continuing to pioneer what we call open journalism – editorial content which is collaborative, linked into and networked with the rest of the web.

In the press release there are also hints -- as Jay Rosen notes -- of an evening edition. Rosen sits on the Advisory Board at the Journal Register Company. This morning Andrew Miller warned that the Guardian and the Observer -- members of the Guardian Media Group -- could run out of money in the next 3 to 5 years if something didn't change. The digital first strategy aims to double digital revenues for the group by 2015/16.

At the core of the digital first philosophy is an emphasis on the digital edition and the throwing out of all trasditional publishing rules in pursuit of that aim. The full press release here. What is John Paton's "Digital First" philosophy? Here is my take, from emediavitals:

Paton's "Channeling Change" presentation last December at the INMA Transformation of News summit is now the stuff of legend. Because of the digital expansion, The Journal Register Company now has a U.S. audience of 16 million visitors a month, up from 13 million throughout 2009. Digital-only revenue has doubled in the last 10 months and is now a double digit percentage of JRC's total advertising revenue.
Paton is looking to rebuild the entire news cycle, with digital as the lead.
"We follow [news] now starting from SMS alerts all the way down to print," Paton told Beet.TV. "We say digital first and print last not because we're dismissing print, but because it actually comes last in the cycle. Long before that we are using social media, we're using video, we're using mobile and we're using web and widgets to get that news out there before we do the actual print product. And so we're able to essentially create this very vertically integrated and robust news and content silo that wasn't available to us before."

It will be fascinating to see how The Guardian tailors this approach to their particular brand. A hint might be in the press release where Rusbridger says: "The Guardian has consistently led the way on digital innovation and is currently showing year on year growth of 40 per cent. We are expanding into America and continuing to pioneer what we call open journalism – editorial content which is collaborative, linked into and networked with the rest of the web."

Obviously, to be continued.

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