The Guardian: Print an unsustainable business model in Oz market

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 26 March 2015
Ian McClelland

The Guardian Australia won't be launching a print edition anytime soon, the managing director Ian McClelland, saying that it is not something that would be sustainable for the Australian business.

McClelland told a media briefing yesterday that having a print edition is not currently on the cards.

“It's an unsustainable business model in this market for this business right now, it just doesn't fit into our plan,” McClelland said.

The editor of The Guardian Australia, Emily Wilson agreed, saying that the sentimentality she once felt for papers is long gone.

“I don't feel sentimental about any one platform. It's about the journalism, and the great thing about not having a paper is that everything you produce works on every platform you publish on. You don't need to make everything different for the paper,” Wilson said.

It isn't just a paper that The Guardian won't be commissioning anytime soon, with McClelland also setting the record straight on his opinion of paywalls.

“I'm not saying that paywalls are universally wrong, I think they're perfect for the right kind of publication, but for a general news organisation where there's a lot of competition talking about and writing about the same things I think it's a pretty suicidal business model,” he said.

He explained that with social referrals driving so much traffic for news organisations, when a user is then directed to a paywall from social media it can be beyond frustrating.

“Especially recently, with a hell of a lot of our traffic coming through social media, and I've had it time and time again when you go through when someone's recommended a story, and then you get directed to a paywall, you have this resentment for this publication,” he added.

The Guardian Australia launched in the Australian market in May 2013 and has just relocated offices to a bigger premises in Surry Hills, to manage its rapidly expanding team.

Approaching its second year McClelland said that as a business it wants to move away from traditional advertising looking to events and masterclasses to drive its revenue.

“Long-term we don't want to be to dependent on brand-based or advertising-based funding. So the task, really, is to become much more engaged with our audience and we're doing that through masterclasses, more Guardian live events and also launching a whole range of products and services and benefits our audience,” he said.

Last week The Guardian launched a global programmatic private marketplace, named the Pangaea Alliance, which will allow advertisers to buy to the publishers' premium advertising inventory programmatically. McClelland said that it's all part of the Guardian's evolution of its advertiser offering.

“Traditional advertising is constantly evolving, and The Guardian is pretty good at doing that. I think at the moment, with the evolution that we're going through, we're seeing traditional display increasingly being programmatically sold. It's targeted we can base that on behaviour and we can base that on what we know. Also because that the advertising is really impactful on mobile, our real challenge was to make the commercial side just as impactful on the small screen.”

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