The Guardian plots expansion into Asia

The GuardianThe Guardian is in early stages of plotting an expansion into Asia.

The British newspaper’s global CEO Andrew Miller told Mumbrella’s Australian edition that Southeast Asia could be its next launch market.

The Guardian launched a digital edition in Australia in May this year, and Miller said Sydney would be used as a base from which to expand its web presence in the region.

“One of the reasons I’m here is to explore how we build out,” said Miller. “There just seems to be an obvious opportunity to build our journalism out, but how we do it is a question.”

“Chasing countries is the wrong approach. Chasing themes and building off our geographic footprint in Australia, then into maybe Southeast Asia, is something of interest,” he said.

Asked to expand on his remark, Miller emphasised that any planning was still in its “early stages” but was clear that expansion is on the cards.

“Building out from Australia into the region is definitely of interest,” he said.

Miller questioned the concept of metered paywalls – giving free content to occasional visitors but asking regular visitors to pay – saying: “That to me is the worst paywall in the world – the more loyal you are the more you are forced to pay. I just don’t get that logic.”

But Miller refused to rule out a paywall model for The Guardian, adding: “Never say never but at this stage there is too much to play for in reach and it is about who is going to get that readership. Once you have that, you can think about monetising the readers more directly but I think that’s still some time off.”

Miller added: “I want to be seen as a company riding the second wave of digital extremely well. That means I have to be competing with the like of HuffPo, Buzzfeed, Vice and people like that,” he said.

“A 20-year-old is consuming their news in a very different way to the traditional newspaper reader and that’s why we have to keep working in a non paywall format because all these guys’ business models are based on that.”

Miller also spoke about The Guardian’s recent global expansion and spoke for the first time about the role of philanthropist Graeme Wood in helping fund its new Australian expansion.

“We chose New York first and we now have 50 people there, 12 are commercial and the rest editorial,” said Miller.

“Then in Australia, we got the opportunity to accelerate what we were going to do because of Graeme Wood’s investment. We now have around 30 people with six of them commercial.”

Miller was clear the philanthropist was not involved in editorial, adding: “This is an investment for Graeme Wood, he has given the money completely at arms length and he does not get involved in the running of this at all. The editorial aspect has always been completely independent.”

Globally, The Guardian has seen losses of £30.9m (US$49.5m), but operations are subsidised by the substantial Scott Trust. Asked if the satellite ventures like the New York and Australian offices would ever be profitable Miller said: “Absolutely. We wouldn’t be doing this purely for the journalism. There has to be a plan that is profitable and Graeme sees this as an investment just like we do.”

Miller also committed to the future of the print edition of international newspaper The Guardian Weekly saying that as long as it too remained profitable it would continue.

“Last week we worked out The Guardian was consumed on 5,561 variants of products,” he said.

“One of those is the The Guardian Weekly, and if it is profitable and positively contributing to the cost base then we will keep it. If it’s not, or it doesn’t fit the overall direction we want to move, then we wouldn’t.

“Right now, The Guardian Weekly is a profitable product with a good audience – a very different audience from other digital products – and therefore one we would keep going,” he said.

Nic Christensen


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