The notion that the paper could become “the international liberal journalistic outlet” isn’t so far off for the British newspaper. Currently, readership is divided nearly equally among the U.K., the U.S. and the rest of the world, Guardian U.S. Interactive Editor Gabriel Dance said in an April interview with WAN-IFRA. But with the NSA exclusives and apparently more leaks to come, the Guardian is sure to snag new American readers and perhaps others throughout the globe.
Associated Press reporter Matt Apuzzo called last Wednesday’s scoop “the coming out party for the beefed-up” Guardian U.S. Indeed, Thursday was said to be the website’s highest traffic day ever for U.S. users, and Monday marked an overall traffic high. This is a major turning point for a website whose American growth has been steady but slow, Guardian media blogger Roy Greenslade said.
And with 18.7 million monthly unique U.S. viewers in April, according to ComScore data, the Guardian U.S. has boomed from its humble beginnings less than two years ago. After Guardian America flopped in 2007, the revamped web-only edition has been gaining traction since its launch in 2011. Fifty-seven Guardian employees now work in New York, Washington and Chicago, The New York Times reported.
On the heels of its U.S. success, the newspaper launched an Australian edition at the end of May. Setting up shop abroad is part of the newspaper’s global business strategy to help offset major revenue losses, Charlie Beckett, director of media research group Polis, told the Times. Indeed, despite the Guardian’s aggressive expansion, circulation dropped nearly 8.5 percent in the past year, according to April ABC figures. Moreover, circulation in the U.K. is now about half of what it was a decade ago, according to the Times.
With about a third of total audience now online readers, the paywall-free newspaper is working out alternate revenue streams, according to the Associated Press. To keep its journalism open, the newspaper is trying to capitalize on loyal readers, Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger told the Times, and also bump up web traffic and advertising, the AP reported. But they’re in for a rough road, said Steven Barnett, a University of Westminster communications professor. They’re trading lost dollars from print ads for “pennies” of web revenue, he told the AP.
“They’re clearly trying to establish themselves as a world leader in authoritative investigative journalism,” Barnett said. “But if you are delivering it for free, how do you ensure you derive some proper revenue from their expansion? That’s been a problem for months and years.”
The newspaper has also attempted to reach readers outside of English-speaking territories, with a couple translation initiatives. Last April, the site offered a series of articles in Russian, Estonian and Chinese, and the year before it translated 72 articles on the Arab uprisings into Arabic.
The Guardian will soon combine its several domains — Guardian.co.uk, GuardianNews.com, m.guardian.co.uk — into one international TheGuardian.com site, emphasizing the newspaper’s worldwide ambitions.
“As we set out on our mission to become a unified, global [organization], we now have one domain we can rally behind,” Guardian U.S. CEO Michael Bloom said in an interview with Mashable. “[And] it will be much easier for users and partners.”
Though now more Americans at least know the Guardian’s name, their loyalty will be hard-won.
“The challenge for The Guardian now is how to keep this new audience engaged and coming back to the site even months from now,” Jared Belsky, executive vice president of digital marketing agency 360i, told AdAge. “It’s tough to take a one-time hit like this and parlay it into consistently larger profits.”
But for now, the paper’s celebrating. Greenslade is already talking Pulitzers. The Guardian would be the first British newspaper to take home the honor, but because of its concentrated U.S. operation, it’s indeed eligible, Pulitzer administrator Sig Gissler told the Huffington Post.
“No one likes to be beaten in their own backyard,” Greenslade said, “and that is exactly what the Guardian has done.”