Newspapers’ next frontier: The whole world
New York Times pours $50 million into global digital expansion
April 15, 2016
By the editors of Media Life
This article is part of a Media Life series “Reinventing the American Newspaper.” Click here to read other stories in the series.
Five years ago, Britain’s Guardian launched Guardian U.S., an online offshoot of the UK paper aimed at reaching an American audience.
Readership grew quickly. By 2013, a third of the paper’s audience was American, and the company’s digital revenue increased by 25 percent the next year, tied in part to the U.S. expansion.
Today Guardian U.S. is one of the top five newspaper sites in this country.
Other papers have taken notice of this success, notably The New York Times.
It too has decided a global strategy would be the smartest and most lucrative tactic, at a time when newspapers’ print editions are struggling domestically but digital hasn’t become quite the money-maker they had hoped.
Today The Times announced a $50 million investment in an international digital expansion. NYT Global, a new team headed up by Joe Kahn on the editorial side and Stephen Dunbar-Johnson on the business side, will focus on developing a series of new sites in several languages and growing their audience abroad.
The move makes sense at a time when U.S. papers, especially major metros like The Times, are looking to leverage anything they can to boost revenues and offset steep print advertising and circulation losses.
“The difficult U.S. newspaper environment has driven the industry to hunt for new audiences,” Gordon Borrell, president and CEO of ad tracking firm Borrell Associates, tells Media Life.
And The Times has an advantage over many of its international rivals.
It has an excellent digital product. Its U.S. site draws more than 50 million visitors per month, according to comScore, and it now has more digital-only subscribers than print ones.
“While they’ve had a decent overseas audience (about 220,000 subscribers for the International Times), there’s much more to be gained abroad, especially if papers like LeMonde or The Times of London aren’t keeping pace with the demands of digital readers,” says Borrell.
“The NYT could steal some of their readership, as well as that of other newspapers.”
The Times set a goal last October of doubling digital revenue by 2020. At the time, it said it would be targeting younger readers as well as those outside the United States.
The paper has already done a bit of a dry run with the launch of its first online Spanish-language site earlier this year. It includes a mix of original stories and pieces translated from the English-language Times.
Of course, the looming question is how many other U.S. newspapers will follow The Times in this global digital push.
The Times has long competed with The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times to be the national newspaper of record.
The Post has made some inroads of late against its rival in the U.S., with its digital traffic recently surpassing the NY Times after its acquisition by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. But its focus remains largely on the U.S.
The Journal is a natural fit for global expansion, with its focus on business and markets. And it shares a parent company, News Corp., with a slew of UK papers.
But The LA Times faces too many internal problems stemming from owner Tribune Publishing to do anything as ambitious as an international push, for now.
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