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Grauniad Down Under?
December 17, 2012 4:52 PM   Subscribe

The Guardian, the 191-year-old British daily newspaper whose name is synonymous with broadly left-leaning values, is reported to be planning to open an Australian online-only news operation. The venture (which has not been confirmed) is said to be headed by current Saturday Guardian editor Katherine Viner, and to be a joint venture with Australian philanthropist Graeme Wood, who already runs a not-for-profit media site). The Guardian already runs a US online news operation (previously) with local reportage and commentary.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch's News Limited owns around 70% of Australia's newspapers and staunchly right-wing mining magnate Gina Rinehart recently attempted to purchase part of the other major newspaper group.
posted by acb (57 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Guardian leaves very much to be desired, but the best of luck to them. They're better than Murdoch by far.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:57 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Back home they're balloting for strike action over plans to cut 100 editorial jobs.
posted by Abiezer at 5:00 PM on December 17, 2012


pɐıunɐɹb ǝɥʇ

Bring it on. Australian newspapers are universally awful.
posted by panaceanot at 5:02 PM on December 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Good luck to them. Can't see how it could make any money. Why don't they buy Crikey instead?
posted by wilful at 5:12 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is very good news. Pun intended.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Buying Crikey wouldn't work, as Crikey is not the same sort of publication. Crikey is a fairly detailed news source catering mostly to hardcore current affairs enthusiasts; the Guardian is a broad mass-market quality daily (as opposed to tabloid) with a left-of-centre line. The Guardian buying Crikey and turning it into the Guardian Down Under would ruin what Crikey was to its readers, a bit like, say, Instagram buying Flickr and removing the ability to post photos not taken with a smartphone app with funny filters.

If the Guardian Down Under does go ahead, though, I expect a number of contributors from the smaller, more niche, web publications like Crikey, New Matilda, Overland and such will end up making it over there in the way that people like Ana Marie Cox (who started her career on suck.com in the 90s) did to guardiannews.com.
posted by acb at 5:21 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


The Guardian leaves very much to be desired

If anything The Guardian's main crime is that it is read written by people who think they *ought* to run the country, but it's a fine paper. Don't forget that it if it weren't for the Guardian, Rupert Murdoch and a whole bunch of other people would still enjoy running the show in Britain.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:35 PM on December 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


I know the Fiver's lager problem has been worsening of late, but waking up down under with the deed to a website stuffed down his urine-soaked trousers? That's a bender that would make Plain Old JT smile.
posted by suckerpunch at 5:38 PM on December 17, 2012


Can anyone with any knowledge explain how this works? The Guardian is losing money hand over fist from what I can tell [which, to be fair, is pretty much just what Private Eye says]. Its expansion into online and the US seems hugely loss-making and this is compounded by its loss of advertising and newsstand sales.

Is this move a sign that:
a) it's much healthier than the doomsayers make out
b) it's desperately flailing
c) it's struggling but this is a tactically useful move
posted by Hartster at 5:41 PM on December 17, 2012


Perhaps Scott Trust Limited's investment dispursements allow the (limited Trust) to soak up losses?
posted by KokuRyu at 5:47 PM on December 17, 2012


Perhaps Graeme Wood is bankrolling this new venture to an extent that there is limited downside for The Guardian. It also fits into their current experimenting with anything that might offer a path to survival.
posted by postagepaid at 5:48 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is great news !
posted by Bwithh at 5:50 PM on December 17, 2012


I fail to see how this can become profitable -- or cover costs.

Maybe it'll act as an extended news bureau for a worldwide "leftwing" online business standing up with Fox, AJ and the BBC?

I'll read it if it's free.
posted by Mezentian at 5:59 PM on December 17, 2012


I fail to see how this can become profitable -- or cover costs.
I'll read it if it's free.

One model floated (by Clay Shirky at the Guardian Open Day) was the NPR model (also familiar to Australias from community radio stations like RRR, FBi, &c.); build up a brand that attracts loyalty, encourage those who believe in the brand to subscribe, mainly for the knowledge that they're keeping it afloat, but make the content available to everyone.

I subscribe to the iPad app, even though I, more often than not, read the articles on the web, partly because of this; mind you, I subscribe to RRR as well, despite not having lived in Melbourne for eight years. Though perhaps there is enough of a culture of doing so in Australia, partly due to the community radio phenomenon, that something like that could work there.
posted by acb at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2012


I don't need my news to be free but I need it to be not-shit. I find myself subscribing more and more for better options these days and I'm okay with that.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 6:21 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, out here in the Straits of Malacca, it appears that a certain Malay-language newspaper, apparently from a diametrically opposite end of the political spectrum, seems to have copied The Guardian's distinctive mast-head and font.

I have nothing to add on possible profitability or otherwise for the Aussie Guardian, but have been reasonably happy with the Guardian, although ironically, not in its dead-tree format; somehow, the Berliner format just didn't work for me, still prefer a broadsheet. Also, their WinPhone 7 app (as is their iPad app, to which I subscribed to briefly) was more compelling than the actual newspaper.
posted by the cydonian at 6:38 PM on December 17, 2012


On a semi-related note, I've just noticed that guardian.co.uk has stopped redirecting to guardiannews.com for me.

I'd be curious to know how the American escapade worked for them. I'm not sure the quality of their reporting of American news went up, only the quantity. I can't see how it could have made them money, but I guess you never know.
posted by hoyland at 6:43 PM on December 17, 2012


The Guardian probably has better literature news coverage than any newspaper in the US or UK.
posted by stbalbach at 6:58 PM on December 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


1. Create Guardian.com.au.
2. Leave a couple of board seats open.
3. Wind up Rhinehart.
4. Offload shares.
posted by pompomtom at 7:27 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nope - the guardian is definitely still dying. The paper lost nearly £40 million last year, if the independent ever decided to make a half-decent website that would probably only accelerate.

It is a shame because almost every design move they made has been fantastic. The berliner format was a genius move, their web/tablet properties are light years ahead of the competition and they have the best typefaces & design around.

The problems are a total lack of a compelling business model and far too frequently atrocious content. (CIF, their "blog/opinion" site in particular is just awful). I think the latter is more a product of the former than anything more deep, but....
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory at 7:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Readling the Evening Standard link in the post - thank god The Guardian isn't the kind of British paper that feels the need to randomly insert words like "glamorous" into articles...
posted by Jimbob at 7:51 PM on December 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am already subscribed to the Guardian Weekly - which is fabulous. And I've been very impressed with the Global Mail this year. Looking forward to this.
posted by smoke at 8:30 PM on December 17, 2012


The Guardian covers US politics than any US publication does.

Then again, so does Al Jazeera.
posted by bardic at 9:25 PM on December 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Good luck to them. Can't see how it could make any money. Why don't they buy Crikey instead?

I've gone off Crikey - can't put my finger on it. Could be that it's not really worth the money anymore. Could be that I'm just saturated.

So I spend my time with The Age site with it's endless...

MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES HIT NEW HEIGHTS
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SLUMP
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SET TO HIT NEW HEIGHTS
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SET TO SLUMP
posted by mattoxic at 9:33 PM on December 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


I remember when it was still The Manchester Guardian. </hipster>
posted by orrnyereg at 9:38 PM on December 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


My biggest gripe with the Guardian was how Nigel Leigh pretended to think that PGP passwords "didn't work after a certain amount of time"* and published the password to the unredacted Wikleaks cables, then paraded around blaming other people for the unredacted, unencrypted files being in the wild.

*as if we're supposed to believe that
posted by dunkadunc at 9:40 PM on December 17, 2012


I've gone off Crikey

Have you? For me, still the best value journalism in Australia - which is damning with faint praise I know. Bernard Keane has some blind spots to be sure, but First Dog is a cracker and I love reading Guy Rundle. Of course like all journos their favourite topic of conversation is themselves, but their regular lampooning of the Australian is always good.
posted by wilful at 10:05 PM on December 17, 2012


The Guardian is 191 years old as a publication?

Holy shit. That's actually pretty impressive for a daily newspaper.
posted by Sara C. at 10:09 PM on December 17, 2012


Rupert Murdoch and a whole bunch of other people would still enjoy running the show in Britain.

Now they just run the show joylessly.
posted by srboisvert at 10:14 PM on December 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


David Leigh. (facepalm) The blog is by Nigel Parry.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:00 PM on December 17, 2012


I hope it works - we need more media competition in Australia. I just watched all of Australia's "great and good" turn up to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's funeral today, and whilst I am sure many of them were genuinely there to pay their respects, I am equally sure many were there to pay their respects to Rupert.
posted by awfurby at 11:18 PM on December 17, 2012


Was Rupert there? He seems like the type to not turn up.
There's money to be made.
posted by Mezentian at 11:28 PM on December 17, 2012


awfurby: " I just watched all of Australia's "great and good" turn up to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's funeral today"

They turned up for the fireworks, free booze and dancing in the streets, right?
posted by dunkadunc at 11:59 PM on December 17, 2012


He dismissed 20,000 years of indigenous habitation and culture in one sentence of his eulogy to his mum today. Impressive arrogance, mentioned nowhere.
posted by taff at 12:00 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm going off Crikey. Keane is mostly good, although I think he needs to spend a few weeks in a quiet place sometime to work through his slightly odd obsessions with things like anti-dumping laws, compulsory voting and the anti-siphoning list. Rundle is entertaining but really, really needs a copy-editor to spend a couple of minutes skimming over each of his pieces to fix the most obvious mistakes. Other than that... well, Mark Latham's Gerard Henderson impressions are pretty funny. I miss Possum.

I still have fond memories of reading my dad's copies of the Guardian Weekly on the flimsy airmail paper they used in the '80s and I wish them well - most of their writing is twice as good as anything we have here now - but I'll be surprised if this works. Oh well. I'll subscribe to whatever they have, anyway.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 12:11 AM on December 18, 2012


Nope - the guardian is definitely still dying. The paper lost nearly £40 million last year, if the independent ever decided to make a half-decent website that would probably only accelerate.

Sure, the paper loses money, but don't ongoing dispursements from the Scott Trust (or whatever it is now) make up for that? It's the Trust (which is basically mandated to keep the Guardian alive) you have to worry about, not the Guardian itself.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:15 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Since I work there, there's a limited amount I can say, but of course we're losing a great deal of money, like everyone else in the business. The plan is for digital revenues to make up for the shortfall in print. We don't know this will work, any more than anyone else does, but there is no better plan. At the moment it seems to be working and the figures still make sense.

The Scott Trust has a lot of money, true. But it can't sustain indefinite losses.

Guardian Australia is part of a sensible plan to see if we can't establish some kind of global brand across the English-speaking web. In fact this isn't just sensible but essential. There is no way that the revenues from being a solely British operation would sustain the Guardian in the future.

My own view is that the ad-supported model of news is doomed, and we can ultimately sell only what people will directly pay for. Ad-supported entertainment, fine. Consider the Mail Online (but don't look at it). But the Mail Online, though it is profitable, makes a tiny fraction of the paper product's revenues.

But news, in the sense of information on which people might need to base decisions, will always be worth money to someone. The real underlying problem is that there are so few people who get to make decisions about anything except where they would like to be in debt today.
posted by alloneword at 1:15 AM on December 18, 2012 [14 favorites]


Sure, the paper loses money, but don't ongoing dispursements from the Scott Trust (or whatever it is now) make up for that?

Yeah, The Scott Trust owns the Auto Trader mag and website which I've heard makes it a ton of money (so of course Murdoch is planning a rival, fronted by - boo hiss - Jeremy Clarkson)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:16 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The Independent is absolutely and completely fucked. I worked there, too, for the first ten years of its life. But the daily circulation of the paper is down to around 60,000 now.
posted by alloneword at 1:17 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


From what I recall of other articles about the Guardian, the issue is that the Scott Trust is now drawing down on its capital - rather than just the interest or returns - to fund the newspaper. In the past few years, the Trust sold stakes in things like Auto Trader and other regional papers to boost its reserves by a few hundred million, and there was an article in the FT earlier this month suggesting that their remaining half of Auto Trader is currently worth £600 million. So in other words, they can afford to keep on losing £40 million a year for at least another decade or two, which puts them in a better position than most other papers.

However, that's not saying a lot. Personally I think that the Guardian has lost the plot. While it does do some impressive journalistic investigations, most of the paper is full of mediocre articles and comment that's easily bested by other blogs, websites, papers, magazine, and indeed, Metafilter. This was all very well back 10-20 years ago when left-wingers in the UK didn't have anywhere else to go for their share of news and info, but now we have options and the Guardian feels decidedly lacking.

There are two other areas that could use improvement. Firstly, the Guardian seems to be spending a lot of time and energy on their masterclasses/open days. I honestly cannot believe this brings in that much cash, even with the classes being as expensive as they are. Surely they would be better off doing the classes online, in a Udacity/Khan Academy way? They have a great brand, it would go a long way.

Secondly - and related - is the Guardian's digital efforts. Once upon a time the Guardian was really at the forefront of the net. I remember it being the best newspaper online, with great liveblogs etc. But I was surprised to see that The Telegraph now apparently knows how to do a pretty mean liveblog, and unfortunately the NY Times seems to be way ahead on interesting data visualisations/interactives. Of course the NYT has way more money, but... that's globalisation for you. Today, the comments are a mess (I've been informed that they're 'just about to be changed' for literally three years now) and the Music community, for which I understand a large amount of effort was expended, is unsurprisingly struggling many user-contributed reviews.

I have no doubt that the Guardian will live on in some form for many, many years to come, but it's going to be tough times ahead in the near-mid future.
posted by adrianhon at 1:40 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


If anyone in Oz is interested, I just renewed my subscription for Guardian Weekly today, they are running a promo atm of $130 for a year - considering that's about $2.50 a paper, and it'll set you back $6.50 at the newsagents', it really is a bargain.
posted by smoke at 1:44 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope this goes ahead. I've practically given up buying actual papers and their online versions are just as bad. I love the ABC for radio and tv, but would like some good local written news. I do have a Guardian Weekly subscription (which I got for $20 [!!!] for a year of delivery - it was offered around Australia Day this year).
posted by AnnaRat at 2:17 AM on December 18, 2012


So I spend my time with The Age site with it's endless...

MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES HIT NEW HEIGHTS
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SLUMP
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SET TO HIT NEW HEIGHTS
MELBOURNE PROPERTY PRICES SET TO SLUMP


Not to mention:

HOW $CELEBRITY GOT BACK HER PRE-BABY BODY
$CELEBRITY AND $CELEBRITY'S CHILD-REARING TIPS
HOW $CELEBRITY AND $CELEBRITY REIGNITED THEIR SEX LIFE

Property prices, body-image/sex-life neurosis and celebrity gossip. I swear, they must be modelling themselves on the Daily Mail Online. All we need is running speculation on what might cause and/or cure cancer.
posted by acb at 2:26 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I do have a Guardian Weekly subscription (which I got for $20 [!!!] for a year of delivery - it was offered around Australia Day this year)

I had that, too (thank you, OzBargain), then it stopped arriving and when I called up was listed as "suspended" - lady I spoke to said a lot of the $20 ones are now. I figured they had made a huge loss subsidising my reading for nearly a year, I was happy to pay more.
posted by smoke at 2:33 AM on December 18, 2012


People have never paid what it costs for news. The cover price for paper publications generally covers printing and distribution costs, more or less, with everything else coming from advertising revenue.

Now there is no ad revenue - the Internet has eviscerated the machinery that kept that going, much as it has done elsewhere. And that's getting worse with mobile, which is to say social, where advertising just does not work full stop.

Subscription - either for closed content, or for public content a la NPR - isn't a good option, but it is (as far as I can see) the only one. The best end game here is where subs replace the cover price and advertising comes back: subscribers are valuable to advertisers, because they've demonstrated commitment and you end up knowing a lot about them. This will probably work best in specialist areas, where you have a strong link between readers and a particular corpus of advertisers, and we see this already in business and technology publications. Harder with general interest titles.

The big problem for everyone is the Internet's tendency to anoint kings. You are either number one in your chosen area, or you're nothing. If you make your chosen area small, you have a better chance of winning - but the spoils are poorer. And you can't afford not to go global, whatever you're doing (mod hyperlocal), where global equates to the Anglophone world and as many other markets as you can manage.

So, the Graun is where many titles are - watching costs go up as the online battle is joined and revenues go down as advertisers get sold inventory at cut price through ad networks and other horrors. It has the same choice as many: fight or fold, and the cost of fighting is ruinous.

Looks like it's fighting. Good. But the Guardian as we know it won't survive.
posted by Devonian at 2:46 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Subscription - either for closed content, or for public content a la NPR - isn't a good option, but it is (as far as I can see) the only one.
This
posted by alloneword at 3:11 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I know this: I wouldn't want to be running a left-of-centre news organisation, trying to move to the Web, where a leftish-of-centre state broadcaster gets $5 billion a year (£3,600 million in 2012) to (amongst other things) run one of the biggest websites in the world dedicated to news.

I took the Guardian for many years. It's instructive to compare Guardian comments on the BBC in 1990 with comments now: I think the Guardian is naturally much less supportive, as the BBC is now a rival.

Now I take MetaFilter.
posted by alasdair at 3:24 AM on December 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


quality newspapers in Australia were really reliant on classified advertising, the so called rivers of gold. Those are pretty much gone now. Web advertising is not making up for that loss, particularly given that advertisers are starting to question the readership numbers that newspapers have been claiming. That should also be freaking out the tabloids, who traditionally rely on display advertising.

Long story short, the only sector of the newspaper business doing well down here is local focused. Stuff that you can't get for free online elsewhere about what's happening in Elstenwick, or Townsville, or Leichardht, or Woy Woy, or where ever it is you live. The tabloids here are keeping their head above water for the moment on the back of coverage of parochial sports and that they belong to Rupert's evil empire.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 3:25 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


First dog makes me laugh.

The Monthly's best cartoons of 2012

I never thought I would say it, but Mark Knight's is excellent.
posted by the noob at 3:44 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The tabloids here are keeping their head above water for the moment on the back of coverage of parochial sports and that they belong to Rupert's evil empire.

News Ltd. also owns a big chunk of the local papers in Australia (the Leader Group, for example, which publishes municipality-based titles).
posted by acb at 4:10 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


despite being a tech junkie, I've subscribed to the print(!) edition of the Guardian weekly for months, and it's just the right hit of global analysis and news for me, as someone who is wearied by and suspicious of daily ephemeral reporting. I like nothing better than to shelve the iPad and laptop on Sunday mornings and browse slowly through a week in the life of the world. I hope the Guardian endures, and I will happily continue to pay for not-shit news.
posted by idlethink at 4:44 AM on December 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


News Ltd. also owns a big chunk of the local papers in Australia (the Leader Group, for example, which publishes municipality-based titles).
posted by acb at 4:10 AM on December 18 [+] [!]


Yes sure, but I don't think they realise just what they've got. Their colleagues in Adelaide are doing it much better. Around here it pretty much goes straight into the recycling.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:44 AM on December 18, 2012


Guardian.co.uk back to redirecting to guardiannews.com in the US now. Must have been temporary hiccuo
posted by Bwithh at 10:08 AM on December 18, 2012


The Guardian is a great paper, easily my favourite. Australian newspapers are by and large very stupid and trashy. This could be an excellent development.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 7:27 PM on December 18, 2012


" I just watched all of Australia's "great and good" turn up to Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's funeral today"

They turned up for the fireworks, free booze and dancing in the streets, right?


I'm guessing you meant no disrespect. But just to set the record straight, Dame Elisabeth was a beloved philanthropist in animal welfare and child health who was known to chide her son over his unclassy media style, which was far removed from that of his father's. Dame Elisabeth died two months short of her 104th birthday.
posted by Kerasia at 1:42 AM on December 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


Disrespect.
While I have no particular beef with Elisabeth, and acknowledge her philanthropic contributions, her husband was an old school prick (used in deference to this site's reluctance to call a c a c) and raised a son whose attitudes and actions are globally known as being, well, would you agree with distasteful?
I'm getting older too, but giving anybody a free pass because they soften in their later years is a bit rich.
You need to call out the evil bastards when they die, or the ones remaining have no motivation to change.
posted by bystander at 3:01 AM on December 19, 2012


Are you seriously contending that Dame Elizabeth Murdoch was an "evil bastard"?

Check yourself.
posted by smoke at 3:28 AM on December 19, 2012 [4 favorites]


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