Guardian enters Europe, a graveyard for UK publishers in the past

By Peter Bale


New Zealand and the U.K.


The Guardian has launched a new version of its increasingly international Web site aimed at continental Europe — even as Britain has left the European Union — and against a background of various attempts by UK publishers to enter the market across the Channel.

As a veteran of a couple of earlier ventures to expand UK and UK-American media ventures into Europe, I am impressed they are going where so many others have dared to tread and are doing so in English rather than any of the local languages. It is true, of course, that more than ever English is the er … lingua franca of Europe.

“The Guardian’s correspondents have been covering European affairs for more than 200 years, and we’re delighted to be expanding even further with new reporters, specialists in crucial Europe-wide themes such as the environment, culture, community affairs and sport, and an array of new European columnists,” Guardian Editor Katharine Viner said in a statement about what is clearly a journalism-led approach to carve out a place or meet an unmet need.

“In today’s globally connected world, we believe there’s a great need, and a demand, for a European lens on world issues,” she said.

To some extent, The Guardian has proven such a model can work. It opened an Australian edition under former editor Alan Rusbridger in 2013 and has since become a top-five news site in a ruthless and hotly contested market against rivals like News Corp.

It also launched a standalone newsroom and site in the United States in 2011 and has established a strong profile in the media ecosystem with its liberal or left-of-centre approach and some ground-breaking investigative journalism, such as The Counting on killings by police.

In each case, from a Newsroom Initiative point of view, it has posted a charismatic and innovative editor to head each digital title and more or less let them go — and built newsrooms. It is also true that its content aligns to its supporter-rather-than-subscription model, though it increasingly has what amounts to subscription offerings. It also has an international edition.

Its results have been remarkable after some difficult times, and it is arguably built on a rare synergy between its ethos and its newsrooms, as well as superb analytics and innovation. International revenues rose by 17% in its last financial year and account for 35% of total revenues, which may go some way to explain the move into Europe.

That success may also have given impetus to the rival Independent’s decision this month to expand in the United States with more editorial staff and more targeted content.

By way of background, I was involved in a big expansion of The Times (of London) — reach rather than investment as such — built on an immense increase in readers from the United States in the mid-2000s. In Europe, I helped launch FTMarketWatch sites in Germany and France as offshoots of FTMarketWatch in the UK and the original MarketWatch in the United States in the early 2000s. None of those survived and nor did an ambitious newspaper and digital expansion by the Financial Times to create in Germany. Years before the late and disgraced media mogul Robert Maxwell created The European newspaper.

Given its success and commitment in Australia and the U.S., it seems The Guardian may get it right: investing in journalism online without the cost of an old-style newspaper project.

If you’d like to subscribe to my bi-weekly newsletter, INMA members can do so here.

About Peter Bale

By continuing to browse or by clicking “ACCEPT,” you agree to the storing of cookies on your device to enhance your site experience. To learn more about how we use cookies, please see our privacy policy.