Journalist Q&A: Janine Gibson, GuardianNews.com

Editor-in-chief Janine Gibson talks to Emory Sullivan about growing readership in the US, creating a global conversation, and the role digital plays at the news company.

Name: Janine Gibson
Title
: Editor-in-chief
Outlet: GuardianNews.com (The Guardian's US edition)
Preferred contact:
: janine.gibson@guardiannews.com
Website: www.GuardianNews.com

GuardianNews.com editor-in-chief Janine Gibson talks to Emory Sullivan about growing readership in the US, creating a global conversation, and the role digital plays at the news company.

Does GuardianNews.com differ from the US page at www.Guardian.co.uk?
It is just a domain. There is only one Guardian website. We are rolling out our front pages gradually because a big switch over is a tech nightmare.

In September 2011 we launched the US edition starting with the front page for our US users.

It is geo-tagged, so anyone with a US IP address is going to come in through that front. But anything we produce in the world for The Guardian is available on the site. If it's of more interest to US readers it will be on the US front page. The same goes for UK readers on their front page.

Do you plan on making the US front its own site?
No. You don't want to be publishing things twice. It's confusing for users and hinders a global conversation.

We know US users and advertisers really like a dot-com, so over the next few months we will be rolling out our front pages on a dot-com domain, sometimes with partners, advertisers, and sponsors.

Our principle is everybody can see everything on our site because users want to have a global conversation.

Why did The Guardian launch a US offering?
We're trying to produce Guardian journalism and a Guardian view of the world for all our readers. A third of our readership is in the US. We weren't producing content specifically for them; we just got them by accident.

But since September 2011, we decided to focus on this US edition and massively increase the amount of news and content we are producing for the US. Our US audience increased to 11.8 million in October 2012, from 9.7 million in September 2011.

How are you evolving the digital business?
We are trying to build our audience as fast as possible, but in a scalable way. We want a sustainable digital news organization. We are not tied to a print edition in the US as we are in London; we are not remaking a print edition into a digital. This allows us to make sure we are growing at the right pace and keeping revenue locked into our investment.

We will create an app specifically for the US brand. We have an iPhone and an iPad app for the UK edition at the moment, which are available here, and the iPad app is the best way to read the UK print edition for US readers. The iPhone app is based on the website, so it's breaking news internationally.

Last year we had almost $74 million in global digital revenue. We are growing quite fast and we will continue to invest.

Do you plan to create anything in print for the US edition?
No. That would be mad. Distribution costs are so prohibitive.

GuardianNews.com's US audience grew from 9.7 million to 11.8 million in one year due to increased efforts.

How does your work in the US differ from that in the UK?
One of the biggest challenges and natural gains is taking what was clearly an accidental drive-by readership and making them feel like a Guardian audience. That can be done by showing our range of reporting and being more attitudinal in tone of voice in the sort of culture, arts, features, and columnists we have.

Part of the way we do things, which is digitally focused, is aimed at keeping people around and rewarding their interest in a subject. We try to make sure our beats are not broad and vague, but specific and purposeful.

There is a Guardian approach to things. We can be irreverent, but funny, conversational, and participative. Readers respond well to that, and we have found American readers are taking on our sports coverage and entertainment as much as our politics and serious news.

How is your US staff shaping up?
We moved to Soho in January 2012. Our staff is at about 50. We're always looking for fantastic journalists who have something to add to the way The Guardian works, but we are also hiring in commercial, tech, and back office.

All of your content is online and in print for free. Why not charge?
Here, there isn't a line between paper and Web. We are practicing open journalism and finding it works well for us.

We've run the numbers and looked at pay walls and, so far, we haven't seen a model that makes us more money than we currently make in digital revenue. In fact, it was considerably less when we ran the numbers.

We're watching to see if someone cleverly comes up with a model that looks like it will work better.

Everybody wants to make digital news a sustainable business. But at the moment we're finding a mixed open economy works better for us. 

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in