Guardian Australia’s mobile-first approach to content

Guardian Australia editor Emily Wilson discusses the move from the UK, covering breaking news and future growth

By Kruti Joshi

Emily Wilson

Emily Wilson

When appointed the editor of Guardian US in March 2014, the founding editor of Guardian Australia and now the editor-in-chief of Guardian UK, Katharine Viner, handed the reins of the news website down under to Emily Wilson.

The key challenge of taking up this position is the….. size of the team working on the title in Australia, Wilson told Mediaweek

“It’s a much smaller team [than the UK]. That’s challenging when you’re trying to provide news coverage not only of a continent but also, when our UK and US colleagues are sleeping, of an entire planet,” Wilson said.

“We’re trying to do so much, to be so ambitious, to work to the highest possible level, with only about 40 full-time editorial staff…At the same time, [we are] trying to become a self-sustaining business, which means not wasting a penny.”

Speaking about the interaction between the office in Australia and its counterparts in the UK and the US, Wilson said: “There’s perhaps a bit less of it than you might think.”

This is mainly due to the time difference.

“When we’re on deck, they tend to be tucked up tightly in bed, and vice versa.

“The big exception to that is when big, rolling global stories break – stories like the horrific attacks in Paris. Then the handovers between the teams are really crucial. It’s vital we work seamlessly and continue to prosecute news lines around the clock.

“When you’re publishing a Guardian
story now…you see it first as you
would on mobile.”

“On these big breaking global stories, having strong teams in three different time zones is very powerful indeed.”

Having only a digital presence in Australia, Guardian Australia’s primary focus is to deliver content that is easy for users to navigate, read and digest. The small screen takes preference over the big.

“The overwhelming underlying trend we’re all adapting to [is] the rise of mobile. It’s something we’re all thinking about. One tiny example of an adaption to that is when you’re publishing a Guardian story now, as an editor or sub, you see it first as you would on mobile. You have to approve that before you can check how it looks on a big screen. It’s a very immediate reminder of how a vast number of your readers are accessing your work.”

The Guardian launched in the market around the same time as Daily Mail Australia and BuzzFeed Australia. Since then, another international player has also entered the arena, The Huffington Post Australia.

Apart from this, Guardian Australia also faces some stiff competition from the likes of news.com.au and smh.com.au, which consistently take up the top two spots in Nielsen’s online ratings for news sites, released each month.

In a market with just over 23 million people, why should readers turn to the Guardian?

“That’s for the audience to decide,” said Wilson. “We try very hard to be fair, thoughtful, to get things right, be relentless and fast on the stories we think are really important.

“You might argue we have a more global and serious outlook than some other news sites, and that is going to be appealing to some readers.”

Having said this, Wilson also added, “I love all the new entrants. It feels really fresh. And there’s a lot of room on the internet.

In October 2015, Guardian Australia was the sixth most-read news website ranked by unique audience.

“Our readers have a thirst for serious news and analysis and they love politics, but they also like to laugh. Our in-house stars like Lenore Taylor, David Marr and First Dog attract huge audiences.

Wilson’s vision of the Guardian in the next five years is to be big, “but not too big”. “We don’t want to become unwieldy and [to remain] self-sustaining,” she said.

The goal is “to be the most trusted source of news and analysis in Australia, while at the same time doing truly global journalism in collaboration with our US and UK colleagues.”

>> The transition from Katharine Viner to Emily Wilson

“I’ve been in situ here a year and a half now, so I can’t remember any bon mots from the handover. But we had a memorable day walking around Melbourne before she left. She showed me her favourite bits of the city while we walked and [I] downloaded everything I needed to know about the team here and its first year in operation. Then we went to a bar.”

>> CV: Emily Wilson

“I was a news reporter at the Bristol Evening Post, then the Daily Mirror and the Daily Mail in London for about a decade. But I’ve been an editor at the Guardian for around 15 years, doing most of the editing jobs in the building at one time or another. If I ever get a job in the sports department – which they won’t let me – I’ll get some sort of cup, or special T-shirt.”

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