For the four-and-a-half years I lived in London, The Guardian was the newspaper to read for quality investigative journalism as well as for its famous spelling mistake howlers.
Writing for Accountancy Age magazine in Soho, I’d read the business sections of The Guardian, alongside the other broadsheets (the Financial Times, The Independent and Daily Telegraph) for possible story ideas in the morning and then, like everyone else, would seek out The Sun and The Mirror in the afternoon for the salacious gossip, page 3 girls and Premier League football stories.
Lately there has been extensive coverage of the launch of a digital Australian edition of The Guardian (announced in January) with news of top Fairfax journalists like David Marr and Lenore Taylor jumping on board with the site to be edited by The Guardian’s deputy editor Katharine Viner.
A colleague of mine at Private Media, Oliver Milman, will be joining the Guardian Australia as a Melbourne-based environment reporter alongside other new signings of journalistic talent announced this week.
They’ve already leased offices for journalists and other staff in Surry Hills, Sydney, so it’s clearly a serious venture for a publication, which is the fourth biggest newspaper website in the world with a monthly audience of 30.8 million users behind Mail Online (45.3m monthly readers), the NY Times‘s (44.8m) and USA Today (34.6m) according to National Readership Surveys September 2012 figures.
So, eager to find out more, I searched for ‘The Guardian Australia‘ on Google.
The first result was this page (below), with picture of a koala bear and a billabong and a host of stories, videos and commentary about Australian issues:
This, I know, is not the new Guardian Australia edition, but the long-running Australia page of The Guardian UK with the giveaway being The Guardian store offers in pounds while the Guardian jobs section are all British roles:
So I clicked on the third link on my Google search – www.theguardian.com.au which sounded like the most likely address for the new digital Guardian Australia edition.
And bingo, I came across a newspaper website full of Australian stories with a masthead in similar font to that used by The Guardian.
So was this The Guardian Australia edition?
Clearly not, since it says its owned by Fairfax.
When I clicked on the “About Us” page, the confusion abated. It reads: “The Guardian provides the latest news from the Swan Hill region, northern Victoria and NSW Riverina.”
This is another Guardian Australia – a regional newspaper dating back to 1888.
Perhaps its only coincidence the fonts are so similar, but it surely must have caught the attention of those in corridors of power at Fairfax, and not just because they’ve got the URL, but also the Facebook address: www.facebook.com/GuardianAU.
As luck would have it, Twitter suggested I follow Lenore Taylor, the recently appointed political editor of The Guardian Australia edition and so I did and duly asked her what form the new publication would take:
“Frontage” – is a new term I’d never heard before, but I assumed it meant something on The Guardian‘s front page, so that’s where I went.
After a little bit of a look around, I came across this button at the top of the website, which allows you to choose between the UK and Guardian US version:
So presumably, at some point when it all goes live, there will be an extra item added to this menu bar with the word “Australia” and when you click on it there will be an Australian version, similar in format to the current American edition:
Website address issues aside, it’s going to be interesting to see how The Guardian performs in Australia.
As someone pointed out to me, it’s going to go from being a UK publication writing about Australia for British readers to one written by Australians for Australian readers, with a UK editor.
This it has done somewhat successfully with its US edition, which now has around 8 million viewers a month.
But it’s been a bumpy ride for The Guardian US, which first launched in 2007 as GuardianAmerica.com, then folded back into the UK edition in 2009, with staff laid off, before launching its US edition (or ‘frontage’ to use Lenore Taylor’s term) in September last year, also accessible via the URL: http://www.guardiannews.com.
While no doubt the journalism produced by The Guardian Australia will be of the highest calibre, it will face challenges from a host of established left-wing publications like Crikey.com.au, The Global Mail (founded no less than by BRW Rich Lister Graeme Wood, the primary investor in The Guardian Australia), the ABC’s online presence and Fairfax’s own stable of publications, to name just a few.
Which means making money from The Guardian Australia will be an even bigger challenge.
The Guardian Media group has been the exact opposite of a cash cow of late reporting huge losses in recent years (£75 million loss in the 12 months to August 2012) as it tries to transition its business model to one that taps into its huge online audience, a difficult task that neither Fairfax nor News Limited nor any media organisation have yet fully realised.
And it has another challenge.
As Crikey writer Guy Rundle pointed out, The Guardian has a reputation for being the worst of the UK newspapers when it comes to writing stores with an anti-Australia slant.
It’s reporting on the Ashes and British Lions tours later this year will be fascinating to say the least – if you can find the website!