Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content

History of that The Guardian newspaper is planning to aggregate its presence on the web under a single entry point, domain, is an interesting milestone for a mainstream medium whose innovation in extending its presence and brand beyond its traditional printed newspaper origins in the UK makes it a stand-out among mainstream publishers.

A web address change may not seem like that big a deal. But if you’re a content publisher putting out the type of content online that attracts millions of people every day to visit you on the world wide web, having a single entry point to all your content that reinforces your brand name and presence makes sound commercial sense.

And sooner rather than later. The latest readership figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations, released a few days ago, show that nearly 82 million unique browsers accessed the newspaper’s website in April 2013 – a record high, says The Guardian – from all over the world.

It seems clear that the evolutionary shifts in the newspaper business are gathering steam from the big milestones we saw last year.

In December 2012, Newsweek magazine ended nearly 80 years in print, becoming an online-only publication. Quartz, a digital-only business magazine from Atlantic Media, launched in September. In July, the Financial Times said that worldwide digital subscriptions surpassed those for print for the first time. We also saw an interesting experiment on Christmas Day when the Telegraph in the UK published a digital-only edition on a day that traditionally sees no newspapers at all.

The Guardian’s arch online rival, Mail Online – the digital stable mate to the printed Daily Mail newspaper – has poured resources into developing a digital presence that has made it the world’s most-visited news website with more than 112 million unique browser accesses per month, according to its latest ABC certificate – most of those from people elsewhere in the world than the UK.

The stakes are high in a global marketplace where your competitors today are brands, social media publishers and others. Getting attention to your content requires a lot more than just being a newspaper publisher with a tradition of great journalism behind you.

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Powered by article titled “Guardian to launch new platform to streamline access to web content” was written by Mark Sweney, for on Friday 24th May 2013 08.08 Europe/London

The Guardian is to launch a new global web presence,, in recognition of the newspaper’s increasingly international digital appeal.

The move will streamline access to Guardian content – amalgamating the main entry point, mobile site, US homepage and the soon-to-launch Australian digital edition – into one core web destination.

In the last five years, the number of monthly Guardian digital browsers has grown from 20 million to more than 80 million, with much of that growth coming from international markets.

“Every month, our online content is accessed from almost every country around the world,” said Tanya Cordrey, chief digital officer at Guardian News & Media, in a blog post called Going global on our digitaljourney. “In fact, UK users now represent just a third of our total audience.”

The home of the newspaper’s content has been, which is the only non-“dot com” domain suffix in the top 10 Google News list of digital news outlets.

“This may be a small URL change, but it marks a big step for the Guardian and reflects our evolution from a much-respected national print newspaper based only in the UK … to a leading global news and media brand … and an ever-growing worldwide audience accessing Guardian journalism every minute of every day,” said Cordrey.

Cordrey added that the move to will make for a simplified user experience, but will also be more appealing to major advertisers in international markets, who are perhaps not drawn to the idea of running campaigns on a UK-specific website, despite the reality of the Guardian’s global digital readership.

The move, which will take place later this year, will involve the transition of millions of URLs attached to the Guardian’s websites and about 15 years of archived content.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

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Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists

UK Prime Minister

A discussion topic in episode 701 of the FIR podcast, published today, looks at a question asked in the Metro newspaper last week: should British politicians take notes from Barack Obama’s campaign team?

The Metro’s excellent report looked at the key role social media played  – especially Twitter – in both of the US president’s election campaigns in 2008 and 2012 in enabling direct engagement with reporters and opinion-makers as well as with voters in communities across the United States (see detailed analysis of 2012 from Pew’s Journalism. org).

The discussion that guest co-host Stephen Waddington and I had in the podcast considered key elements of Obama’s campaign as described in the Metro story by Obama’s deputy campaign manager, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon. Her conclusion:

[…] Summing up the lessons of 2008 and 2012, Ms O’Malley Dillon said: ‘If there’s anything to be learned from our campaign, it’s that we made it a priority, we believed in it from the top to the bottom, we ensured the resources were there and we allowed it to help dictate for us in some ways the type of things we were doing based on how people use these forums.

‘We weren’t trying to recreate the wheel, we were trying to be part of the dialogue and I think that’s one of the many ways we were able to be successful.’

Keeping that in mind, Wadds and I broadly concluded in  our discussion that a) yes, British politicians would benefit from studying the role of social media in US election campaigning; and b) there’s little to suggest that they are or have done so – certainly at a central-government level that seems isolated from grassroots ‘social politics’ – even though the next general election in the UK is only two years away at most.

So The Guardian’s report yesterday on the role of Twitter in how Downing Street aims to secure goodwill from journalists by revealing news before its official announcement by ministers had me thinking about what looks like a chasm of a difference in how American politicians see social media channels like Twitter and how UK ones do.

There, it looks more open and inclusive. Here, it seems to be secretive, selective and controlled.

That’s a great pity if it does turn out to be how my cynical view of the political communication landscape appears. The way in which social media channels can galvanize political engagement with and by those who have the final word on who gets elected, as evidenced by the US experience, clearly is firmly understood by government communicators:

[…] “We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

I hope that the ‘means to an end’ becomes a great deal more honest- and authentic-looking than the current situation that The Guardian describes.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)

Powered by article titled “Number 10 hands out Twitter exclusives to favoured journalists” was written by Josh Halliday, for The Guardian on Sunday 28th April 2013 21.07 Europe/London

Asked in 2009 why he didn’t use Twitter, David Cameron famously responded “too many twits might make a twat” . Four years later, Number 10 is attempting to move more rapidly into the digital future with a Twitter strategy that includes handing out “Twitter exclusives” to favoured journalists for release before they are officially announced by ministers.

In a tactic reminiscent of the BBC satire The Thick of It, Twitter is also being used to try to quash negative stories before they gain currency in a news cycle where every second counts.

“Every minute that passes the poison is spreading into the system to all sorts of roots and you need to find a way to cauterize that very, very quickly,” said a senior No 10 source.

The Twitter exclusives aim to secure goodwill from journalists who are often under pressure to break news online before rivals, but will irritate those who believe announcements should be made in parliament.

Many of Downing Street’s new media strategies were introduced by Craig Oliver, the prime minister’s communications director, who insisted on moving a Twitter monitor into the No 10 newsroom when he assumed his role in January 2011.

According to colleagues, Oliver likes to describe the social network as similar to fire: a useful tool in the right hands, but massively destructive if it is misused.

The analogy might leave some scratching their heads, but Cameron’s inner circle wants all his MPs to take Twitter seriously – even if the 2015 general election is, in internet time, light years away.

One example of using Twitter to “seal” a negative story came after the Evening Standard mistakenly broke George Osborne’s budget embargo on the social network last month. A mortified journalist promised to tweet a swift apology but Oliver ordered a pre-emptive tweet from the Tory press office account, to ensure the reporter’s promise was met.

Conservative party headquarters brief MPs on good talking points for Twitter, using them to “tweet as a muscular force” about a single topic or news item to hammer home the message. Some 418 MPs have joined the tweeting fray, according to the news wire Tweetminster, up from 176 in 2009.

“Twitter used to be seen as tool for the egocentric and verbally incontinent,” said a senior No 10 source. “But the reality is that it’s an extraordinarily useful way of getting talking points out there.”

Downing Street has not always been so fleet of foot – it took hours to respond to the online mockery prompted by Osborne’s first-class train ticket debacle last October – but Cameron’s inner circle now recognises that the case for a clear Twitter strategy is “unanswerable”.

“We’re getting to where people are these days,” said Anthony Simon, the head of digital communications in the prime minister’s office.

“Increasing numbers of people are on Twitter – journalists, stakeholders and professional groups – and to be part of that conversation is vital for any government department. It’s democratic because it’s open to anyone and we don’t go on it for the sake of it or over-rely on it – it’s a means to an end.”

The most popular tweet sent by the government was Cameron’s tribute to Baroness Thatcher, prompting 3,500 retweets. The most divisive was when No 10 tweeted every single reshuffle appointment last September, which led to a mass unfollowing from less devoted users but praise from politicos.

But the jury is out on whether the rest of Britain is as Twitter-addicted as the Westminster Village. “I think the majority of activity comes from a fairly small group and most MPs have fairly small audiences,” said Alberto Nardelli, the founder of the app Tweetminster, pointing out that 1.2m people follow MPs on the site – about the same size audience combined as Beppe Grillo, the leader of Italy’s anti-establishment Five Star Movement.

“I think we’ve gone beyond a ‘should politicians use Twitter?’ phase. It’s now how will it be used,” he added. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds

twitterppcThe Guardian’s report on plans by the Press Complaints Commission (PCC), the UK’s mainstream print-media regulator, to include tweets made by journalists in its regulatory remit shouldn’t be a surprise to any observer of the contemporary and rapidly-evolving media landscape.

As the Guardian reports, the PCC thinks some tweets by journalists would be considered as part of a newspaper’s editorial content and, therefore, subject to existing regulation covering such content. It wants media companies to differentiate a reporter’s "official" tweets and those that are personal comments, and develop policies to help everyone understand what the rules are when using social channels like Twitter

It’s a good idea if it helps to make clear what is editorial and reporting and what is personal opinion. The best example I know of a media organization setting out such policies is the BBC with its comprehensive and continuously-evolving Editorial Guidelines website, which includes specific guidance for journalists (and others, such as editors and programme producers) on usage of Twitter.

For example, in the section on Social Networking, Microblogs and other Third Party Websites: BBC Use:

[…] You may wish to consider forwarding or "retweeting" a selection of a person’s microblog entries/posts or "tweets". This is very unlikely to be a problem when you are "retweeting" a colleague’s BBC "tweet" or a BBC headline. But in some cases, you will need to consider the risk that "retweeting" of third party content by the BBC may appear to be an endorsement of the original author’s point of view.

It may not be enough to write on your BBC microblog’s biography page that "retweeting" does not signify endorsement, particularly if the views expressed are about politics or a matter of controversial public policy. Instead you should consider adding your own comment to the "tweet" you have selected, making it clear why you are forwarding it and where you are speaking in your own voice and where you are quoting someone else’s.

The BBC also has a specific policy on personal use of social networking and other third party websites including blogs, microblogs and personal web-space. As the Guardian notes in its report, journalists like the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

Whatever type of organization you are, media or otherwise, developing clear policies and guidelines about employee use of social tools like Twitter, then communicating them to your employees and helping them understand the rules of the game, make good business sense.

And a good place to get inspired for your organization is to take a look at the BBC’s example.

(The Guardian’s report below is published with their permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)

Powered by article titled “PCC seeks to regulate press Twitter feeds” was written by Dan Sabbagh, for on Friday 6th May 2011 14.14 Europe/London

Reporter and newspaper Twitter feeds are expected to brought under the regulation of the Press Complaints Commission later this year, the first time the body has sought to consolidate social media messages under its remit.

The PCC believes that some postings on Twitter are, in effect part of a “newspaper’s editorial product”, writings that its code of practice would otherwise cover if the same text appeared in print or on a newspaper website.

A change in the code would circumvent a loophole that – in theory – means that there is no form of redress via the PCC if somebody wanted to complain about an alleged inaccuracy in a statement that was tweeted. Last year the PCC found it was unable to rule in a complaint made against tweets published by the Brighton Argus.

Its plan, though, is to distinguish between journalists’ public and private tweets. Any Twitter feed that has the name of the newspaper and is clearly an official feed – such as @telegraphnews or @thesun_bizarre – will almost certainly be regulated.

However, that principle could be further extended to cover a reporter’s “official” work account, whilst leaving personal accounts that discuss conversations over breakfast and weekend exploits as outside its ambit. Some journalists – such as the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones – already maintain multiple accounts in an effort to preserve professional and personal distinctions.

The PCC wants each newspaper to develop a “Twitter policy”, to tell its reporters which accounts are considered part of its editorial product and which are not. But with many newspapers, including the Guardian, republishing tweets on their site, many journalist musings are likely to be drawn in.

An online working group of the PCC has already recommended that the body undertake a “remit extension”, the formal mechanism by which the self-regulatory body takes on a new area of responsibility, after consulting with the newspaper industry as to how Twitter regulation can be implemented. That consultation is due to finish in the summer and the new rules are likely to be in place by the end of the year.

Publication on Twitter is already subject to libel laws and court orders – the internet, of course, does not exist in a legal vacuum. Last week, for example, journalists at the Guardian were reminded that tweets that hinted at the identity of individuals covered by injunctions would be a breach of the injunction itself.

In February the PCC ruled that information posted on Twitter should be considered public and publishable by newspapers after it cleared the Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday of breaching privacy guidelines.

Both newspapers had reported on tweets posted by Sarah Baskerville, a Department for Transport employee, in November last year. Baskerville, who had around 700 Twitter followers at the time, described a course leader as “mental” and posted links to tweets attacking government “spin” and Whitehall waste.

Baskerville complained to the press regulator, arguing that she could have a “reasonable expectation” of privacy and that the reporting was misleading. The Daily Mail and Independent on Sunday argued that the messages were public and could be read by anyone.

The PCC decided in favour of the newspapers, in what is the regulator’s first ruling on the republication of information posted on Twitter.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”.

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Another magazine stops printing to go online

accountancyageAnother death knell for niche-interest print? The Guardian reports that the weekly  Accountancy Age magazine is about to become online only.

Last month, Computer Weekly said it was discontinuing print and would become online only. Reports said that title owner Reed Elsevier "sought to reshape RBI’s [publisher] portfolio by significantly reducing costs and channelling investment into successful data services."

The web is a lifeline for niche publishing. Special-interest publications can re-invent themselves for changing market conditions and consumer behaviours, rather than just go belly up, at far less investment than print. They can embrace new platforms such as tablets – look at the successful example of Dennis Publishing’s Evo magazine and its iPad edition: a success story in a competitive niche (motor industry).

Expect more such stories in a changing media landscape that continues to evolve rapidly.

(The Guardian’s report is published here with permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)

Powered by article titled “Another magazine stops printing to go online” was written by Roy Greenslade, for on Friday 15th April 2011 13.49 Europe/London

The magazine march from print to web-only publication continues. The latest title to make the step is Accountancy Age.

From the week after next, the title – owned by Incisive Media – will become an online only publication. The last print edition will be published on 21 April.

According to a story on its website, the decision “has not been taken lightly”. It “comes after careful consideration of changing reader habits, the growth in use of our website and the burgeoning subscription rates to our emailed newswires.” It continues:

“The evidence is that our readers are increasingly seeking their news, analysis and features online and want it delivered to their inboxes.”

Its journalistic team will remain intact and the magazine’s owners believe that “has a bright future.”

Source: Accountancy Age © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Are the Olympics a waste of money, asks Economist ad campaign


Tickets for the London Olympics 2012 go on sale today for the first time, and The Economist takes good advantage of the timing and attention to launch a poster ad campaign on the London Underground that brings into sharp focus the matter of how much this Olympics tournament is costing the country, meaning each one of us (£350 each, says The Economist).

The question of costs has been a discussion focus ever since London won the rights to hold the games next year. As The Economist notes in its poster, costs have doubled from the original estimate.

So a thorny topic on which to stimulate more discussion, very nicely balanced by The Economist also running a pro-Olympics campaign, says The Guardian – I can’t find an example of a poster anywhere: would love to see one – in a concise report, below, that explains the campaigns and what they hope to achieve.

Meanwhile, I’m entering the ticket lottery hoping to get tickets for the opening ceremony. Being at an Olympics in London is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’d love to experience it.

(The Guardian’s report is published here with permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.)

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Powered by article titled “Are the Olympics a waste of money, asks Economist ad campaign” was written by Mark Sweney, for on Tuesday 15th March 2011 07.25 Europe/London

As tickets go on sale for the biggest sports event in British history, the 2012 London Olympics, the Economist is launching a major ad campaign suggesting that the event is a “waste of money”.

The Economist has a history of running provocative poster campaigns, such as those last year stating the case for and against trading in human organs and legalising drugs.

But it is now launching a new two-week poster campaign scrutinising the London Olympics, under the headline “Hosting the Olympics is a waste of money”, appearing in London underground stations until the end of the month.

The weekly business and news magazine has timed the launch to coincide with the release of more than 6m tickets for sale online to the public from Tuesday, a moment that Olympics chief Lord Coe has highlighted as critical, the “point that it suddenly becomes very real”.

The ad highlights several negative points, including the £9bn that the Games will eventually cost – “twice what we were originally told and around £350 for every British household” – stating also that past hosts, including Montreal and Athens, have been “stuck with huge debts and white elephants”.

The campaign, which runs under the same theme, and strapline, as last year’s posters – “Where do you stand?” – aims to drum up debate and interest among people who do not normally read the Economist.

The Economist, which is 50% owned by Financial Times’s parent company, Pearson, is also running a pro-Olympics version of the poster. This version says that the Olympics will help the “poorest bit” of London and that such a big construction project has been a “boon to a stumbling economy”; adding, “Having a big party in London will cheer the place up. That’s worth a lot.”

A second theme in the campaign that it originally launched in 2010 looks at whether the baby boomer generation – people born between the end of the second world war and the mid-1960s – has left a “good” or “rotten” inheritance. Positive points include them inventing things such as the iPod and internet, which “young people love to play with”, while negatives include running up massive debts.

The campaign was created by Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO. Media planning and buying was handled by PHD.

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000.

• If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly “for publication”. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt protests may hasten revolution in world news

The Guardian has a thoughtful analysis in today’s paper – reproduced in its entirety, below – on the “Al Jazeera effect” resulting from the Qatar-based news broadcaster’s English-language media coverage of the protests in Egypt.

The Guardian’s piece argues that, as a result, Al Jazeera English is poised to become a credible mainstream news resource for consumers in countries like the US and those in Europe. What effect that may have on global news reporting and consumption is a question to ponder. The Guardian offers some ideas on that.

The Guardian’s report is published here with permission via the Guardian News Feed plugin for WordPress.

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Powered by article titled “Al-Jazeera’s coverage of Egypt protests may hasten revolution in world news” was written by John Plunkett and Josh Halliday, for The Guardian on Monday 7th February 2011 07.00 Europe/London

Donald Rumsfeld demonised it and George Bush allegedly said he wanted to bomb it. No one was quite sure whether the then White House incumbent was joking or not, but its offices have been hit by US forces. Twice.

Now something rather strange has begun to happen to the Arabic language news broadcaster al-Jazeera and the English language channel it launched nearly five years ago; American viewers have begun to demand it. It is clear some kind of watershed has been reached when the Kansas City Star publishes a cut-out-and-keep guide to the “easiest way to get al-Jazeera English”.

The Qatar-based channel’s acclaimed coverage of the Egyptian crisis has been referred to as the broadcaster’s “CNN moment”, doing for al-Jazeera English what the first Gulf war did for CNN, pushing it to the forefront of the public’s consciousness. Put simply, must-see TV. Now the challenge is to translate the plaudits into the major cable or satellite distribution deal the channel has long sought without success in the US.

The New York Times, which praised the channel’s “total immersion coverage of news events the whole world is talking about”, bemoaned the fact that US cable viewers were able to watch MTV’s controversial adaptation of E4’s teen drama Skins but not al-Jazeera English. “It seems like a perverse application of free speech,” said the paper. “But sex is sexier than foreign affairs and it certainly sells better.”

Intimidation and violence

With China investing bn in foreign language media, we may also be witnessing the beginning of a shift, albeit slight, in the nature of global TV news and debate. Stephen Claypole, the former senior BBC News and TV news agency executive who is now chairman of the London and Abu Dhabi-based consultancy, DMA Media, says: “Al-Jazeera has the game by the throat, both in Arabic and English, and it has certainly lived up to its reputation as the most watched broadcaster in the Arab world in spite of intimidation and violence against its staff in Egypt.

“I have heard that [US secretary of state] Hillary Clinton [pictured] watches it constantly and that Barack Obama has been viewing from the situation room. Although al-Jazeera English has been competent since its launch, it has been waiting for a huge story to call its own. Egypt is certainly that,” Claypole adds.

Al-Jazeera English is separate from the main al-Jazeera Arabic channel, which began broadcasting in 1996. Staffed largely by western TV journalists, the English-language service leveraged the advantages of its Arabic network and contacts in covering the emerging crisis. For a story of this scale in the Arab world, it absolutely had to be good.

Al Anstey, the former ITN executive who is the managing director of al-Jazeera English, describes it as an “extraordinary week” for the channel and a “truly historical” one for Egypt.

“We are being seen worldwide as a channel of reference on this story,” says Anstey. “There has been an exponential increase in the recognition of exactly what it is we do and the quality of our journalism and content. I always say the best way of addressing any misconceptions about al-Jazeera English is to switch on and watch.”

Al-Jazeera English is available in around 220m homes in more than 100 countries worldwide, including viewers with Freeview, Sky or Freesat in the UK. But fewer than 3m of those homes are in the US including – helpfully for the White House – Washington DC.

The failure to strike a major US distribution deal is partly a result of the political sensitivity that surrounded the perceived negative slant of al-Jazeera Arabic’s coverage of the Iraq war. It is also a reflection of the fact that cable operators do not think they can make money from a foreign news network on systems that are already full. BBC World News is distributed to around 6m homes in the US, against more than 10 times that for the entertainment channel BBC America (on which some World News bulletins air).

“For a long time al-Jazeera was seen as the Fox [News] for the bad guys — that’s a really unfortunate way of looking at it,” says Jon Williams, the BBC’s World News editor. “With the change of [US government] administration there’s been a slight change of attitude, and if this means that it does now get carriage in the US, then we welcome that. Al-Jazeera has done some great stuff … It wouldn’t be fair to single out its Egyptian coverage – it has been doing this for a while.”

US viewers have been watching the channel by other means – streamed live on YouTube, on set-top box digital video player Roku and on its own website, which reported a traffic increase of 2,500%, with more than half of the upsurge coming from the US.

It also gained a valuable window on Link TV, which announced last week it would simulcast around 12 hours a day of al-Jazeera English on its satellite network available nationally on DirecTV and the Dish Network.

Blogger and journalism professor Jeff Jarvis said it was a “sad vestige of the era of ‘Freedom Fries’ that the channel was not more widely available on cable, and started a Twitter campaign, #wewantouraje (referencing the line from Dire Straits’ Money For Nothing, but with a twist).

“As much of an internet triumphalist as I am, internet streaming is not going to have the same impact — political and education impact — that putting AJE on the cable dial would have,” blogged Jarvis. “It is downright un-American to still refuse to carry it. Vital, world-changing news is occurring in the Middle East and no one — not the xenophobic or celebrity-obsessed or cut-to-the-bone American media — can bring the perspective, insight, and on-the-scene reporting al-Jazeera English can.”

Anstey is cautiously optimistic: “I’m confident we will get distribution in the US, it’s just a question of when,” he says.

“It’s a very important marketplace for us.” Especially in terms of revenue? “It’s not about the finances of getting into America, it’s about getting the content out there. At this stage of our evolution, the priority for the English channel is about building reputation and reach.”

As the broadcaster is bankrolled by the billionaire Emir of Qatar, neither the English nor the Arabic al-Jazeera is under pressure to make a profit any time soon. It has also faced accusations of aligning itself closely to Qatari foreign policy; US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks at the end of last year suggested Qatar was using the Arabic channel as a bargaining chip in foreign policy negotiations with its neighbours.

“Never once has Qatar interfered with our editorial,” says Anstey. “It is absolutely not a fair criticism and I can say that with total confidence. We are genuinely independent.”

The English channel’s short history has not been without its problems — the launch was delayed and allegations of discontent among the ranks surfaced three years ago, accompanied by a string of staff defections.

Anstey, the station’s former director of media development who was appointed managing director in October, says: “As a startup, where your competitors are very established and very good at what they do, there is going to be rapid evolution. We have gone into the next stage of development and things are much more settled. We are able to refine what we do and expand where we feel appropriate.”

As the al-Jazeera channel eyes up further international expansion, funded by its backer’s seemingly bottomless pockets, western news organisations such as the BBC’s World Service are having to sharply cut back, with its shortwave Egyptian service among those facing the axe.

Richard Sambrook, the former director of BBC Global News and now global vice-chairman of the PR firm Edelman, says it is part of a wider trend which could have far-reaching implications.

“Western journalism and newsgathering, including the international networks, is shrinking as news organisations close bureaux and make staff redundant to cut costs. At the same time, states in other parts of the world are investing in journalism including international coverage and networks — al-Jazeera, Iran’s Press TV … and the Chinese have just invested bn in expanding [state news agency] Xinhua and CCTV [China Central Television]. So we may be seeing a shift from western dominated international news to Mid East and Asian dominance in the long run.”

Every global media story produces its winners. Egypt’s drawn-out agony is a tailor-made opportunity for al-Jazeera English, which it has seized with careful on-the-ground journalism. If the US cable owners relent to the emerging public pressure, it will mark a coup for a news service that, until recently, was battling to prove it had credibility and salience with many Western audiences. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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