@ OPA: Guardian to Launch US Commentisfree, Readies for 24/7 Web 2.0

Online Publishers Association, Forum for the FutureBritain’s Guardian intends to launch an American version of its Commentisfree op-ed portal in an effort bring liberal opinion to the US, editor Alan Rusbridger told the OPA Forum for the Future in London today. The newspaper, which boasts many times more overseas online readers than UK newspaper buyers, launched the blog portal last year, three months after launching a new, full-colour printing press to switch the newspaper to a smaller, Berliner format. It takes opinion content from existing newspaper columnists and new writers and will celebrate its first birthday next week. “We’re certainly going to roll this out in America and see whether this works, with an American Commentisfree,” Rusbridger said. “It’s much easier in this country. Most American newspapers would rather crawl under a stone than call themselves ‘liberal.’ We are liberal.” The company prides itself on being a space for “liberal, intelligent” thinking – it wants to “carve out a way of aggregating liberal content.”

Web 2.0: Despite boasting 15.7 million unique users per month (ABCe figures) and winning news industry respect for being amongst the most forward-thinking of the traditional print publications, Guardian Unlimited has now begun to look rather long in the tooth, while the company has focused on re-designing the printed edition and launching unique verticals in travel and arts. Guardian Media Group CEO Carolyn McCall: “We both feel we neglected digital sufficiently while we were focused getting these new papers to market … We’re investing £15 million over the next year to 18 months to make it part of Web 2.0. We have big plans for video and will be announcing those plans shortly. We know there’s quite a lot of revenue associated with video online.” Rusbridger said that, despite international expansion, the forthcoming new site may involve aggregating local bloggers in ways that local newspapers would not for fear of cannibalizing their own revenue.

24/7: Guardian this week it would become a 24-hour news operation within the next 18 months, a process NMA said could lead to job cuts. Rusbridger: “The stage we’re at at the moment is moving from paper to Web 1.0 and aligning those two. On the web, we’re still only working 16 hours a day – we have to move that to 24/7. It’s a logistical struggle to get all those those things in alignment.”