Britain’s Guardian newspaper yesterday launched a new online edition in Australia, where print media are struggling, pledging an independent perspective and a multimedia approach.
The Guardian, the world’s third-most-read newspaper Web site, unveiled the new site with an exclusive interview with Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and a pledge it will operate without a paywall.
This is in contrast to Fairfax and News Ltd, which dominate the Australian media landscape and are increasingly asking readers to pay for digital content.
“Australians are looking for an alternative that is truly independent, both global and local, which offers serious reporting and lively commentary,” Australian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said. “Starting today, we’ll be reporting and blogging, providing commentary, debate and community interaction, as well as using cutting edge data visualization and interactive technology to engage readers in new ways.”
The Guardian says 1.1 million Australians regularly view the newspaper’s global Web site, making it the fourth-biggest market of digital readers after Britain, the US and Canada.
According to data service Comscore, the Guardian is the world’s third-most-viewed newspaper Web site, with 38.9 million readers as of December last year, behind the Daily Mail, with 50 million, and the New York Times at 48.6 million.
Viner, also the Guardian’s deputy editor, who has relocated to Sydney, has recruited a host of respected names in Australian journalism, primarily from News Limited and Fairfax, which have been making staff redundant.
Last year, Fairfax, which boasts esteemed mastheads the Sydney Morning Herald and the Age, announced the firing of 1,900 staff in a radical cost-saving move as it adapts to the digital age.
In common with media companies worldwide, both News and Fairfax are facing sliding print advertising and circulation revenues and a need to adapt their business models.
Guardian Australia is backed by Internet entrepreneur and philanthropist Graeme Wood, who launched the travel Web site wotif.com and is also the investor behind the not-for-profit Australian online news Web site the Global Mail.
The scale of his investment has not been revealed.