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Jul 3, 2008

The New York Times' international bid, in print and online

Part 2: The New York Times' international bid, in print and online

Part 1 discussed how the planned changes at The New York Times and International Herald Tribunewill help the NYT's continuous news offerings, and how these changes could affect the organization and interaction between both newsrooms.

Part 2 examines how The New York Times intends to:
- Further compete against the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal internationally, and ways in which newspapers can reinforce their international reach.
- Use the strength of its online brand while safeguarding the IHT's popular print brand name.

The Weblog spoke to Jim Roberts, Digital Editor at The New York Times, and Martin Gottlieb, who was appointed to the newly created position of Editor, Global Edition.

How newspapers can become international brands, the NYT joins the race

Until now, the Times hasn't specifically catered to overseas advertisers and readers.

"We need to be agile," said IHT publisher Stephen Dunbar-Johnson, "to compete much more aggressively, nose to nose, with The Financial TimesWall Street Journal and anybody else who is competing for our readers and advertisers."

No doubt that the Times actually borrowed the continuous news outpost idea from the aforementioned competitors, which have been relying on their foreign bureaus to provide round the clock coverage.

The staff memo reaffirmed the NYT's "ambitious plans to expand in the region (Asia), particularly in India." In June, the IHT announced a partnership with the India-based Deccan Chronicle to print the Tribune's world business section in the Financial Chronicle.

With the rise of digital publishing, many news organizations are seeking to grow a previously inaccessible international readership by:

- launching a print edition abroad: several papers have rolled out editions away from home this past year, such as the FT's recently launched Middle East edition in Abu Dhabi, WSJ's partnership with business paper Mint in India, the Daily Mail's partnership with India Today to publish the Mail Today, or The Times of London's Polish edition.

- investing in an online international section: In Germany, referential weekly Der Spiegel launched anEnglish-language International edition on its website in 2004. Five fulltime staffers are dedicated to translating Der Spiegel's content and rewriting it with an international perspective, as well as doing their own international-minded original reporting (the full case study is featured in Trends in Newsrooms 2008). The Guardian adopted a different approach, by launching a separate, foreign-based, US website, Guardian America. The Guardian is reportedly considering similar ventures in other regions.

- simply reinforcing their focus on international news in their regular coverage: the Daily Telegraph's website in the UK, which was neck to neck with the Guardian in terms of traffic in April, claims nearly two thirds of its visitors are from overseas. A well-indexed website helps to brings in a significant number of 'light' international users through search engines.

Merging "co-branded" websites but not print: a branding issue

IHT NYT logo.gifThe NYT's approach is a combination of the first two strategies: the print IHT now serves as The Times' 'global edition' (see picture), while maintaining its trademark brand name. With the proposed online merger, the NYT could also follow the second route, by hosting an international edition online, without having to extensively change its workflows (see Part 1). 

The rationale to merge the websites is clearly explained in the memo: according to WebTrends, NYT's website boasts a strong international audience and 58 million global users, compared to iht.com's seven million.

"The global landscape for online news is highly competitive, making scale, speed and resources essential to success. Therefore we have determined that the best future online for the IHT and the NYT globally is through a joint international presence," said the memo. 

However, the memo doesn't explicitly say why this won't be the case in print:

"The IHT should become the international print edition of the NYT, whether it is formally branded that way or not."

The main issue at stake is one of branding. "In print, there have been at least a couple of studies that show that among Tribune newspaper readers there is a great identification with the brand, that the brand means something to readers," said Gottlieb.

"More than the name, what accompanies the name, an international perspective, a sense of calling the best stories from The Times and augmenting them with unique reporting," was a combination that many readers liked.

As news organizations seek to grow their international reach, this consideration probably holds true for many that have established a reputable brand name on a local or national scale. However strong the brand name, its association with a particular place or country can potentially play against that news outlet on the international scene...
Ed: Global brand, content, distribution, and ad sales - a tall order ...

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