Efforts by titles like Guardian.co.uk and Mail Online to gain U.S. audiences are not just hubristic attempts at conquering, Beatles-style, America. For some, they may be a crucial last throw of the dice at making the news business work.
The shrinking of the printed news market has accelerated in the last couple of years, and domestic digital returns have not met once-heady expectations. The UK is a small, finite market, in which these titles have already won.
But the global web has given publishers audiences they could previously only have dreamed of – and that opportunity, one of the few real business growth opportunities left, remains firmly in place.
To remain free-to-view, publishers must amass a large-scale audience to sell to advertisers. The U.S. represents the largest, most-attractive audience possible for British news titles’ English-language content.
This new gold rush is vital. With losses mounting, Guardian Media Group may be approaching a decision on milking its lifeline, selling its stakes in its big B2B sugar daddies, Trader Media Group and Emap, for a windfall.
If and when that happens, Guardian News & Media will need to stand on its own two feet with a real, sustainable business model. In short, America really has to work.
For Mail Online publisher A&N Media, which, unlike GMG, is profitable, the urgency is less so, but the motivation the same – kick-starting its low-earning digital business as a hedge against the possible future erosion of its currently successful print business.
When the Beatles broke the States, it was by delighting them with songs of universal, not market-specific, meaning. Will our news publishers do the same?
Disclosure: Our publisher ContentNext is a wholly owned subsidiary of Guardian News & Media.