How The Guardian goes global again
FN 163: Can Britain's bastion of liberalism catch The New York Times?
The Caribbean, South America and Africa are just some of the target regions for The Guardian’s next stage of expansion as it continues its three-year strategy to become more global, more digital and drive more subscribers.
The UK-headquartered outlet’s ambitions also includes a stronger foothold in the US where its headcount is more than 135 and there are 21 active open positions, Future News has been told.
The Guardian US launched in September 2011 under the leadership of then editor-in-chief Janine Gibson. A decade on and now the digital offering is one of the most recognisable news brands in America.
The Guardian US reached more than 40 million unique visitors in June, up 8% compared to the same period last year, according to ComScore.
It is most popular in California, Florida, Texas and New York, and it will no doubt see a bump in readership ahead of next year’s White House race and as campaign fever ramps-up.
Including the US, seven flagship international reporting roles have been announced by The Guardian. That move is in response to research which found links between the founders of the Manchester Guardian and historic transatlantic slavery.
The positions, many of which will be advertised until the start of September, include two race and equity reporters in the US, an Africa correspondent, a South America correspondent and a Caribbean correspondent.
The journalists will cover daily news and analysis, features, multimedia content and coverage for other non-news sections, particularly stories affecting African-descended populations.
In the UK, the outlet is hiring a Manchester-based community affairs correspondent and a health and inequalities correspondent.
The roles were unveiled as The Guardian reported its full-year results. The main financial and operational updates included:
Total revenues increasing 3.4% to £264.4m
Digital revenues now accounting for 70% total revenues (2022: 66%)
A cash outflow of £21m (2022: cash inflow was £6.7m)
Ex-VOX COO Trei Brundrett joining the company’s Board in July
The figures come after reports emerged that Jeff Bezos is taking a more hands-on approach with The Washington Post, another title which has been public about its own ambitions to become a globally recognised news brand.
In March, the outlet announced it would make 15 additional international hires in an initiative led by Alesia Lewis, The Washington Post’s director of finance, and Sara Sorcher, the head of its London hub.
But both The Guardian and The Washington are playing catch-up with The New York Times.
The Gray Lady has more than 9.7 million total subscribers, recently appointed a new CFO in the shape of William Bardeen, the company’s now former Chief Strategy Officer, and is disbanding its sports desk in favour of coverage from its recent acquisition The Athletic.
By way of comparison, The Washington Post reportedly has around 2.5 million subscribers, while The Guardian has more than one million paying ‘supporters’. It refrains from using ‘subscribers’ since the outlet is committed to a free-at-the-point-of-use model.
2. AI still dominates. The whole technology sector, and everything else, seems to be locked in machine-learning’s almighty orbit.
“Organisations are asking not only how – but how fast – they can apply this next generation of AI to address the biggest opportunities and challenges they face – safely and responsibly,” said Satya Nadella, chairman and chief executive officer of Microsoft.
“We remain focused on leading the new AI platform shift, helping customers use the Microsoft Cloud to get the most value out of their digital spend, and driving operating leverage.”
The AI demand helped Microsoft beat Wall Street revenue growth expectations of 7% in the quarter. Instead, the company posted 8%, amounting to $56.2 billion. Net income was at $20.1 billion, a 20% increase on last year.
But building new data data centres in response to its AI offering has come at a cost. CapEx hit $10.7 billion in the period, up from $7.8 billion.
Alphabet, another star player in the AI race, posted its own earnings results. CEO Sundar Pichai made sure to note the company’s “continued leadership” in AI as the company also saw strong growth in its cloud services.
The trend helped power it to $74.6 billion in revenues for the period, compared with $69.7 billion a year ago. Net income hit $18.3 billion, compared with $16 billion in 2022.
3. An uncertain future for London freesheet CityAM. The publication, a favourite of workers in the UK capital’s financial district and the home counties, suffered heavily when government-mandated lockdowns meant its print edition was no longer available during the pandemic.
The 18-year-old business already had a digital operation and heavily pushed its online presence, later returning to the streets of the Big Smoke.
But it looks like the Covid-setback and the second-order impacts of the pandemic, including hybrid working and soaring print costs, could be a mortal wound for CityAM.
The Dutch-owned outlet had been attempting to find new backers. Now Sky News’ Mark Kleinman, who is also a columnist at CityAM, has reported that the business is lining up administrators and that it could collapse into insolvency. 40 jobs are at stake.
Editor Andy Silvester struck a defiant tone on the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, posting out The Klaxons’ Nu Rave anthem ‘It’s Not Over Yet’.
4. The Telegraph and The Spectator sale ramps up. Lloyds has drafted in Mike McTighe, the chairman of telecommunications company Openreach and trading platform IG, to oversee the process.
McTighe is now chairman of the outlets’ new holding companies, Press Acquisitions Limited and May Corporation Limited.
Lloyds had been in dispute with the previous owners of the titles, the Barclay family, over debts of more than £1bn. The bank then appointed AlixPartners to act as receiver of B.UK's shares, the former overall holding company of the outlets.
The Telegraph and The Spectator could be sold to separate buyers. Both outlets are profitable and have strong ties to the Conservative Party, its leadership and its voters.
Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Business Secretary Kemi Badenoch and James Forsyth, who serves as political secretary to Rishi Sunak, are Telegraph Media Group alumni.
5. Get the X in. Elon Musk has continued to deconstruct Twitter in his own image. The bird has been banned, being replaced by an ‘X’.
Though some are pining for the Twitter 1.0 days, the platform’s growth stalled around 230 million monetisable daily active users. That was before Musk acquired the company for $44 billion in October 2022, which now seems like a decade ago.
Most of Twitter’s workforce is gone, its code seems to change on the regular and we are told ‘X’ will become more like China’s super-popular WeChat, the social media equivalent of a Swiss Army knife.
There will be more video, there will be more audio and there will be payments. All powered by AI of course. “X is the future state of unlimited interactivity,” CEO Linda Yaccarino has claimed.
But Musk and Yaccarino aren’t the only ones promising a new global payments network.
OpenAI’s Sam Altman has launched his Worldcoin project. There are a lot more unknowns than knowns, but we do know the organisation is scanning retinas via 1,500 metal orbs in 35 cities across the globe in exchange for a proof-of-stake (on the Ethereum blockchain) cryptocurrency token.
Even before launch, 1.6 million people had signed-up to the beta version of the project. Altman hopes that the initiative will promote financial inclusivity and potentially provide a platform in the future for the roll-out of a universal basic income.
We also know that his co-founder Alex Blania has worked on machine-learning models for quantum physics and also co-founded Tools for Humanity, a precursor to Worldcoin, alongside Altman.
Though it’s not currently possible to see the tokenomics (effectively how the cryptocurrency will be used/distributed) of the Worldcoin, the founders have promised that all data will be encrypted and secure.
But the UK’s data watchdog, The Information Commissioner, won’t be taking their word for it.
We also know that the Worldcoin Foundation, a type of non-profit incorporated in the Cayman Islands, will serve as initial steward of the Worldcoin protocol. Do note the ‘initial’ wording. And we also know that Musk and OpenAI have previous.
6. British indie podcast companies feel priced out. Luke Moore, co-owner and COO of StakPod, and Nick Hilton (checkout Nick’s newsletter here), owner of Podot, have protested about entry costs, ticket prices (up to £295 per person) and the fact that the indies are unfairly pitted against goliath media companies like the BBC or Audible by the country’s flagship awards show, The British Podcast Awards.
“Running an event of this scale is obviously expensive, but the fact is that if they want to encourage independent, diverse and grassroots podcasters, they need to rethink the pricing,” Hilton told Future News.
“At the moment it is hard to reconcile the direction of the British podcast industry – which is being swamped with increasing cash from the global market – with the real life experience of British podcasters, many of whom are feeling the pinch of the cost of living crisis.”
Haymarket Media Group, which itself is a podcast publisher, acquired the awards show in 2022. In Haymarket’s defence, inflation has forced up the cost of everything, especially hospitality-related services, and the awards do run a bursary scheme.
“Bursary tickets will be open to all those shortlisted for an award who would benefit from attending free of charge,” the company states. “We’re also keen to encourage applicants who are currently underrepresented in the podcast sector.”
7. Spotify still hasn’t turned a profit. But the company’s latest earnings do show positive momentum. Monthly active users are now up to 551 million, with subscribers growing to 220 million. Total revenue also increased by 11% Y/Y to €3.2 (£2.7) billion, while the company posted an adjusted loss of €112 million.
After cutting 6% of its workforce at the start of the year, amounting to 600 people, Spotify’s CFO Paul Vogel reportedly failed to rule out another headcount reduction during a call with financial analysts.
“We’re continuing to be more efficient and feel really good about where we are, so you will see some of that efficiency have even more of an impact in the back half of the year with respect to the op-ex.”
Spotify’s share price dropped by 13% to around $142 in early trading on NASDAQ. Wall Street continues to punish streamers that can’t deliver profitability.
8. Benedict’s newsletter hits the big 500. A big congratulations to Benedict Evans, a former TMT analyst and media strategist who launched his newsletter in 2013 in an attempt to land a job in Silicon Valley. It now has 500 editions.
Even after his five-year stint at super-VC Andreessen Horowitz, Evans’ newsletter is still going strong, has more than 175,000 subscribers and, alongside Ben Thompson’s Stratechery, continues to serve as an inspiration to those in the TMT space and newsletter aficionados across the globe.
Both analysts have also apparently outlasted Mary Meeker’s annual Internet Trends report. Seriously, where are the slides, Mary?
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