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‘This could be very interesting’
With 36 million users, Guardian.co.uk is one of the giants of the Internet. Mark Finney, the Guardian’s head of client sales, tells us what Murdoch’s paywalls could mean for it.
May 31, 2010 3:40 by Austyn Allison
How can publishers capitalize on this movement of readers and spend?
You have to accept that you are in a revolution. Being in a revolution implies certain things. The first thing is: You can be in a revolution and not know you’re in one. When we started Guardian.co.uk back in 1996, we didn’t know we were starting something that was going to revolutionize our business. Neither did our competitors. There were a few thought leaders at the time who were saying this, but we didn’t know it; it wasn’t received wisdom.
The second thing is that the nature of revolutions is you don’t know what’s going to emerge on the other side, which implies that you have to do a lot of experimenting and be prepared for a lot of different outcomes.
That’s one of the things that’s enabled us to build this fantastic thing, Guardian.co.uk, with 36 million unique users throughout the world. It let us move from being the ninth biggest newspaper in the UK to being the second biggest English language newspaper in the world [after the New York Times].
My third point is: You don’t know when this revolution will end, so you’ve got be prepared for a range of outcomes. Experiment, because you just don’t know what’s going to happen.
What sort of experiments have you done?
I can tell you an experiment that didn’t do much for us, though we thought it might. Guardian 24 allowed you to download stories scraped from our sites automatically over a number of different areas, and print them as a PDF. It was our way of trying to enter the London free newspaper market but get our readers to pay for the paper and the ink and not have to pay for distribution. It was an interesting thing to do, but it didn’t really work. Not many people did it.
A great thing we’ve done recently that has worked is an app that enables you to consume Guardian content in a way that is customized and optimized for the iPhone. You can only get that beautifully designed, optimized and customized thing if you download and pay for the app. The app costs £2.39. More than 100,000 people have downloaded it in two and a half months.
We’re really pleased with that; that was an experiment that worked. £250,000 is not going to change the face of newspapers, but it’s 100,000 people who have chosen to pay for an optimized version of my content.