The Gen Post is the weekly newsletter of the Global Editors Network. Published every Monday, it features a top level editor giving an in-depth analyis of the hottest trends in the world's leading newsrooms.
Alan Rusbridger: "Hoping for a print revival is a dangerous strategy"
Alan Rusbridger has been editor of the Guardian since 1995. He is editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media, a member of the GNM and GMG Boards and a member of the Scott Trust, which owns the Guardian and the Observer. He is also a board member of the Global Editors Network. The Guardian Media Group announced on the 16th of June that it is to adopt a digital first strategy. Alan Rusbridger answers a few questions about this new strategy for the Global Editors Network.
When you say “GNM will move beyond the newspaper, shifting focus, effort and investment towards digital, because that is our future", does it mean that print is the past?
Print isn’t in the past. It’s still a vital part of what we do. But print circulations are generally declining over most parts of Europe and America. In the UK it’s a pretty steady 6-8 % fall. The Guardian’s share of the market is the same and the readership figures suggest we’re, if anything, outperforming the market. But hanging around hoping for a print revival is a dangerous strategy.
What are the resources that will move from print and be reinvested in digital growth areas?
We’re working on that now.
What are the changes you plan for the print newspaper with readers in the afternoon and in the evening?
Half our readers now read the Guardian in the evening. Only four per cent expect to find breaking news. So it looks as if the majority of our readers are looking to print to help them make sense of the news, rather than break it.
Could you break down the Guardian's concept of open journalism? Is it linked to your idea of mutualization? What does it change to the work of journalists?
It’s very simple. It means that journalists can do better journalism by collaborating with others than by trying to do it all alone. The world is not short of excellent content, and we produce some of the best. But we can create something even better by editing, harnessing, and linking to the best work of others. We’ve done in so far in comment and in our coverage of culture, sport, science, media, the environment, investigations and foreign reporting. It’s one of the reasons we broke through 50m unique users in May, growth of 40 per cent year on year.
Huffington post, with a lot of external contributions?
Huffpo is pretty open: that’s one factor in it overtaking the NYT within in six years of its birth.
To what extent will the journalists be associated to the effort to grow digital audiences and engagement? Will the Guardian hire specific staffers for that purpose?
They do already and will do so more. Bur we also need more people who do development, or who understand social media, data and multi-media.
Could you specify the “new mobile offerings” from an editorial point of view? And the “new cross-media content offerings”. What will be specific?
We’re working on several new mobile offerings, but aren’t yet ready to talk about them.
From a business and advertising point of view, how to implement the change when 80% of resources still come from the print edition?
It’s a journey. The transition from print to digital was never going neatly to dovetail, and things are even harder in the middle of a global economic downturn. But my commercial colleagues are confident of our business plan, which foresees significantly increased revenues from the traffic growth we expect to see over the next five years. We must stay ahead of the curve: it would be very dangerous to wait for digital revenues to increase before making a decisive further move into digital.
Does this strategy shift involve a change in the Guardian's information system or CMS?
We’re staying with the same CMS system, with a few tweaks. But nothing in this areas stays the same for very long.
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