Newsweek, which recently advised its 24 million readers that London
was the place to be, has just launched its fourth foreign edition in 14
months. ’Our new baby speaks Greek’ it announced as Tempo/ Newsweek hit
Newsweek points out that it is the only American news magazine to create
foreign editions in local languages, crafted to local needs. There are
Russian, Spanish and Korean versions so far, to augment its three
English language editions, and more are clearly on the way. Newsweek is
catering, it says, for emerging educated middle classes with a thirst
for information and ideas which modern American-inspired journalism can
Globalisation is of course the latest buzz word for many companies. And
the media sector is up there with the leaders. But, as Newsweek
demonstrates, something rather more ambitious is taking place in the
information/publishing sector, than simply offering people, wherever
they live, the same product, like a McDonald’s hamburger.
There is a spate of heavy investment underway as the big brands work
away at extending their influence by tailoring their product in new
ways: on a more local level you only have to look at the decision of the
new management at Pearsons to invest pounds 100 million building up,
from this summer, separate American and Asian editions of the FT.
But the current move by global US operators to act regionally, even
locally, is most clearly demonstrated by CNN and MTV, who were so
closely associated with pioneering satellite services in the 1980s. They
are both now pursuing policies of regionalisation in a determined bid to
build up their audiences and get closer to their interests, rather than
relying on being American and different.
CNN International, for example, started its first foreign language
service (in Spanish) for Latin America in March, sees a new Chinese
service as logical, and is stepping up both its German language output
and programming from London, where it is expanding fast. However,
Atlanta will remain its centre.
MTV is being more radical, launching separate local language services
around the globe more in the Newsweek model. In Britain it relaunches
itself next month as MTV for the UK, completely revamping the service
with British music, regional accents and live coverage of the main
It will also sport a whole new group of presenters: MTV’s talent scouts,
for example, have been recruiting stand-up comics.
The strongest media players are aware that the spread of real
multichannel TV and the Internet provide a potentially massive explosion
of choice, so they are trying to marry the advantage of being big brands
with new relevant services. Audiences are not captives. And the most
dynamic companies are not dinosaurs either.