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UK Media Tussle: Guardian Editor Fires Back At Rivals

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Facing their toughest challenge in generations, British news publishers are sniping at each other like schoolgirls in the playground…

The final straw for Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger was what he has interpreted as potshots taken by rival titles this week…

Against a backdrop of newsroom cuts, his CEO’s exit and his forthright views on paid strategy, The Independent (bought by Alexander Lebedev for £1) reckoned his judgment is “flawed” and questioned its “extravagant expenditure.”

Meanwhile, News Corp.’s The Times (due to start charging online in June) reckons the Guardian is “in turmoil“.

So Rusbridger (the same one whom Murdoch accused of talking “B.S.“) is firing back at both titles — but privately — in memo emailed to staff. In it, he variously accuses them of envy, of having divided staff, of not believing in the web and of sharing the same insecurity and rates of decline as everyone.

And the animosity isn’t over. The Guardian has taken out a series of ads suggesting a Lebedev-owned Independent’s freedom is restricted. That’s the same Lebedev who cares deeply enough about an independent free press that he’s formed a philanthropic fund to finance investigative reporting in both Russia and Britain.

Here is the memo:

One of the unique things about our business is that the people who write about our company (in print, at least) are also our competitors. It shouldn

3 Responses to “UK Media Tussle: Guardian Editor Fires Back At Rivals”

  1. tysapsford

    Content value within the digital world will continually change and in changing present challenges and opportunities. New entrants can and do quickly redefine content access routes and in doing so change the value that may be extracted. If this is Alan’s letter (email), it appears to signal an individual who understands that value is created and derived in ever more complex models. Alan has outlined that the introducing of content barriers to aid transactional value is unproven and counters the paradigm that is the digital platform. Not seen before commercial gains have been made by organisations that have leveraged the contextual value of content on the digital platforms, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter. Whether these organisations continue to derive commercial value will depend on their establishing new content value models, such as semantic driven information (semantic web). The newspapers are content based organisations and from the letter it seems Alan recognises this, by focusing on why does our content have value (mixing editorial and commercial perspectives) and how might this value be best sustained (by being open to change). If this is Alan’s letter, then from someone in digital, but not newspapers, it bodes well for newspapers and Alan.

  2. Patrick King

    Alan is if nothing else very articulate – but he does seem to be believing his own propaganda.

    The Guardian was, is and I trust will continue to be a fine organ. I suggest that Alan and indeed Ms. Wade down at Wapping and Comrad Lebedev and their peers across the industry accept that they no longer have newspaper businesses. Whet they own and control are mass media publishing organisations in a state of transition towards on-line information service providers. They need to stop thinking like newspaper prorietors and begin to act more like Telco execs. Survival will be down to mind-set and culture as well as quality content and dynamic business models.

    Patrick King
    Atypon Systems Inc.

  3. Jim Cremin

    Fascinating article; Alan’s bluster is admirable and enjoyable, but fundamentally what News Corp is doing has to be correct, and Alan’s stance arguably hasn’t taken full account of the changing financial climate, and growing realisation that a free ride can’t be sustained long-term. Getting boxed into positions has to be fundamentally mistaken, although his nods at ‘learning from each other’, I suppose, is a start! And, as ever, impressive independence from a subsidiary in paidcontent. Great stuff Rob. Jim (Racing Post staffer)