In the first of three instalments, Andrew Miller, Guardian Media Group CEO, discusses challenges for 2012.
Guardian News and Media overhauled operations last year to push ahead with its “digital-first” strategy in a bid to offset the losses of the newspaper. Eight months on, Andrew Miller, Guardian Media Group (GMG) CEO, spoke to new media age about the fast pace of change within the digital space, the role of social media and what the publisher has learnt since putting digital first.
What are going to be the major challenges and focus points for GMG in 2012?
From a group point of view, the challenge is to manage our portfolio of assets to make sure we are subsidising the losses of The Guardian, which, like every other newspaper, is losing money.
The biggest short-term challenge is the transition of The Guardian from being primarily a newspaper to a much more diverse offering across digital platforms, of which the newspaper is still a core part.
What have you learnt since moving to the digital-first strategy?
The pace of change in technology is getting even faster, so the main thing I’ve learnt is that if anyone tells you that the future of the world in 18 months time will be X, don’t listen to them.
A good example of that is mobile. The most optimistic digital converts couldn’t have predicted the pace of change and the take up of the mobile audience 12 months ago. We’ve seen that in The Guardian, as well as Auto Trader, which has got over 150% growth in mobile year on year.
Where do you see connected TV sitting within The Guardian landscape?
All the talk about connected TV is going to manifest itself in tablet devices for us. We’re doing a beta format of The Guardian on Google TV in the US and we’re going to see how that goes.
I’m intrigued about the space but we don’t have plans for it in the UK yet. We’ll see how the different players evolve over the coming months.
The pace of change in technology and figuring out where we spend our time and resources to try and find a profitable model for the business are big challenges.
What has been the most successful aspect of moving to the digital-first strategy?
I’m seeing a much more product-oriented way of working in the commercial area of the organisation. Before, we weren’t perhaps as focused as we should have been on the core products.
A good example of that is the Facebook app we launched in November. Over 5m people have downloaded it. This takes us to a new audience of 18-30-year-olds and we haven’t been there before, which we think is really exciting.
What other social media plans do you have?
Because we have an open API, which I don’t think many newspapers have, we are able to interact with different platforms much more quickly. The Facebook app, for example, was developed in five weeks, much quicker than we would have been able to if we were a closed environment.
The Guardian is also different on each platform. An error I think many newspapers have made in the past is to assume that there is just one offering no matter what device or platform consumers are viewing it on. The reality is, each of those platforms will be interacted with in a different way and needs a different interface.
The Guardian on iPad is a high-quality, design-led product, while The Guardian on Facebook is a product that allows you to see what your friends are reading and build your own content around that. Android is a more generic serving and Kindle is another example. What really interests me is the way The Guardian is evolving on these different platforms, which again creates more opportunity into the future.
How else do you aim to attract the harder to reach 18-30-year-old audience?
We’ve got a product roadmap across each of the core platforms we operate on and I think you’ll see more in the future.
We also want to do a lot more live blogging on our core website to create a richer, more interactive experience, as well as beefing up the comment area to make it stronger and more engaging.
If we can get strong engagement, we will be able to justify higher advertising yields, which will again reinforce the model in the future.