One of the many attractions digital offers established publishers is the prospect of extending reach. Whether it’s attracting a younger/older audience, those who’d rarely pick up a print product or those from elsewhere, the promise of new readers and potential new revenue streams is hard to resist.
British papers, notably the Guardian and the Daily Mail, can thank their staggering online growth (if not, yet, the revenues) in no small part to traffic generated from the other side of the Atlantic.
Newspapers may actively seek out that new audience – with some bizarre results – but, in truth, any decent British title will soon discover that US, Australian and Canadian readers make up a significant proportion of their traffic.
English-language growth into other English-speaking countries then is the obvious route but the New York Times Company is trying something different: non-English versions of the NYT.
Over the weekend it announced plans for a Portuguese-language New York Times site. Why Portuguese? Brazil, of course. According to publisher Arthur Sulzberger:
Brazil is an international hub for business that boasts a robust economy, which has brought more and more people into the middle class. As the world gets smaller and digital technology enables us to reach around the globe to attract readers with an interest in high quality news, Brazil is a perfect place for The New York Times to take the next step in expanding our global reach.
There will be 30-40 Portuguese articles published a day, most translated from English originals but with a selection of stories written from the company’s Sao Paolo base. Likely to launch in the second half of next year, access will be free. NewYorkTimes.com is subscription-based.
Brazil is the second of the emerging (emerged?) Bric economies to be the subject of a native language version of the NYT. Earlier this year the company launched a Chinese version. Can we expect NYT Russia and NYT India any time soon?
According to WebTrends figures, quoted by the FT, the Chinese site received 1.9 million unique users and 10.1 million page views in September.
Native language newspapers are not new but the cost of production and distribution were always significant barriers to entry when the only option was the printed page; while readers were put off by any delay in publication and delivery of news-focused titles. Digital publishing removes those barriers.
An interesting sidebar to the story is that the company has chosen to use the New York Times name rather than the International Herald Tribune which was traditionally used for its oversees adventures. The choice merely underscores the ability to build a single, global brand online.
UPDATE: It's been pointed out that the FT announced its own Latin American expansion plans earlier this month. These include a new mobile app and a "digitally printed newspaper" (for newsstand and subscriber distribution in the region). Both will be English-language only. Why? Because English "continues to be the lingua franca of the FT's core audience". Which might explain why FT Deutschland, launched back in 2000, is no longer owned by Pearson.