Internet allows British newspapers to become genuinely global

We all know that technology is killing the traditional newspaper, but more surprising is news that the internet versions of several newspapers have found a much wider market.

The ‘News of the World’ article in this week’s Economist picked up on comscore data which showed that the website’s of the UK’s Daily Mail and The Guardian have become global news sites with less than 30% of their traffic coming from their home country.

The Mail Online is now the world’s most popular new website, having recently overtaken the New York Times. as the Economist points out, both The Guardian and Daily Mail grew nationally in the UK by focusing on a political niche rather than a geography. During the 70s, 80s and 90s there was enough of a market for left wing or right wing journalism in a country of 60 million.

By contrast, The New York Times had to remain politically neutral, or perhaps slightly bland, so as to appeal to as wide an audience as possible in the New York area.

The internet has allowed the Mail and Guardian to continue that focus of opinion led stories but on a global scale without a significant increase in cost base. The NYT, less able to move to opinion led journalism, had struggled to push its online appeal beyond parts of the US.

The 35-50 million monthly web visitors for these top sites might just make them profitable. Others may not be so lucky.

The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age for example have always had limited geographical print markets (populations of just 5m each in which to expand). Their web brands haven’t travelled nearly as well as the Guardian, Mail and NYT

Publication Print origin Print circulation daily Unique monthly web visitors Circ:Monthly Web ratio
The Guardian UK 229,750 33 144  x
New York Times US 1,221,240 48 39  x
Daily Mail UK 2,011,280 52 26  x
SMH/The Age Australia 435,800 4.5 10 x

With such success online and a rapidly declining print circulation (The Guardian fell 15% last year), the Mail and Guardian have nailed their colours to the advertising driven / free content business model, as opposed to the ‘digital pass’ model adopted by the NYT and UK’s Times.

That said, there remains questions about whether even these top online news sites make any money. Only the Huffington Post with its lower cost journalism is likely to be profitable on a stand alone basis.

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