A lot of this starts from [editor] Alan [Rusbridger], who’s on Twitter, who’s on Facebook, who’s active in social media, who’s very much a fan of the Web and technology and gadgets. He believes in it, he makes it clear he believes in it, and that obviously helps.
GM: The Guardian comes out of the British press tradition, in which it’s OK for a news organization to have an avowed political perspective. Does that make a difference in terms of reaching out to a Web audience?
JB: Yeah, I think it does. I’m not necessarily advocating that for U.S. papers, but I do think it’s an advantage for the Guardian, in that it gets pick-up from a lot of blogs who share that ideology. I think a lot of bloggers look at them as a natural place to look first thing in the morning for journalism that will be of interest because they know that there’s a general side from which the Guardian comes, which they’re unapologetic about. It may make it harder to get pick-up in areas that are to the other side of the political spectrum, but to be honest I haven’t seen that so much in practice, because the beauty is when you’re on one side people will often link to you because they want to point out how much they disagree with what you’re saying. And I think it certainly is helpful in terms of building relationships with people—you can see it already with how often they get linked on HuffPo and a lot of places, there’s an affinity for the Guardian.
But one of the great things about the Guardian is, even the people who don’t share the ideology respect it as a news organization, and I think that says a lot about them. In the couple months I’ve been doing this, there isn’t a single person I can think of on either side of the political spectrum who, when you tell them you’re working for the Guardian, doesn’t go ‘Wow, that’s great.’
GM: In terms of getting the Guardian integrated into the U.S. web ecosystem, the broader ecosystem—certainly the blog world—tends to allow partisanship or ideology to be out there, so there does seem to be a natural fit.
JB: I think in the world of the Web, you have to pick some spots to go after and go hard after them, while leaving some other ones completely unexplored. So what we’ve been looking at is, what are the content areas where there’s clearly interest in the US where the Guardian produces quality journalism? Obviously politics is one of them, but so is culture, and soccer, and the environment, and media. I think part of the strategy is, instead of just saying there’s 200 pieces in the Guardian today, let’s spend a lot of time trying to get all of them seeded, there’s probably ten that are going to stand above the rest in terms their appeal to a U.S. audience. So how do we build relationships with the bloggers who drive the most traffic in those niches, while maintaining relationships with the broader aggregators?
GM: Switching gears, you tweeted about Clay Shirky’s recent speech, and in particular you flagged the remark that readers are “not interested in single omnibus publications.” Leave aside crosswords and comics and horoscopes and classifieds and everything else that used to fill newspapers, and that all us journalists sadly realized half the people were buying the paper for anyway. Are readers still interested in a publication that brings together sports, and politics, and business, and entertainment coverage—“news” broadly defined—as many outlets, including the Guardian, still do?