BBC ramps up Australian online news operation



The BBC is following its British counterparts The Guardian and The Daily Mail in ramping up its Australian news operation, but will look to add a more international perspective to local news.

As part of the push the British public broadcaster has hired former Sydney Morning Herald chief of staff Wendy Frew, who will lead an initial four person Australian editorial team that includes the existing two Australia based BBC foreign correspondents.

“The distinction is that we are a quality trusted news organisation, we are investing in appropriately and looking to grow in key markets,” Chris Davies the BBC’s global sales and marketing director told Mumbrella.

“We have a small team now – we will start with that core team and take it one stage at a time and growing in line with what our audience wants.” 

Nielsen BBC numbers The BBC has traditionally had a devoted Australian online following and has been a regular in the Nielsen Online Ratings, often pulling audience of more than 1.5m. But it has slipped backwards in the rankings in recent months as other international competitors including The Guardian, Daily Mail Australia and even US viral content site Buzzfeed have entered the Australian market.

The BBC’s director of advertising and brand partnerships Alistair McEwan said that he did not see them competing in the same news space.

“Where we see newer entrants like The Guardian and Daily Mail come in they have taken a very different business model and position,” said McEwan.

“They are ostensibly competing for domestic news and that’s not the space we want to occupy, we want to create an enhanced news offering in a way that they will value and that connects local news to an international perspective and global perspective really.

“As we look to identify a unique position for the BBC, and how we look to deliver our core mission which is to deliver an international news report and provide to Australians what they value.”

The move follows expansions into other English language markets such as the United States, where they have 13 staff, and India.

Davies said he believed, despite the intense news competition in Australia, there was room for the BBC to expand its Australian online audience with a focus on international news and leveraging the trust of the BBC brand.

“We have had a similar set up to the US and we have just had a record traffic month. People want trusted news and we are the biggest trusted and retweeted news source on Twitter globally,” said Davies.

“The reason for that is that people trust the news they get from us and they will then retweet and share that story. Where we are standing apart and growing significantly is that advantage.”

The BBC’s expansion comes at a time of when the ABC is facing the threat of major cuts, although McEwan stressed they would not be aiming to capitalise on any online cutback in their Australian public broadcaster counterpart.

“We are all aware of the pressures that come down on all news organisations”, said McEwan.

“Our ambitions stand outside of that and on their own feet. We are cognisant of all the activities that are going on but we see opportunity regardless of those other factors and are confident in the offering we are bringing and how we want to grow that.”

The local BBC operation will be funded by display advertising and driven by its existing domestic sales team, headed by McEwan.

The publisher said it was confident that while other international players entering the Australian space were conceding that they were not yet profitable it could build a profitable business model while simultaneously expanding its local staff. It will also look to opportunities such as content marketing and video to help monetise the site.

“Our revenue model is currently an evolving picture”, said McEwan. “While traditional display continues to fuel the majority of revenue that comes in on the site we are increasingly seeing revenue grow from content marketing types of deals and also video revenue and increasingly mobile.

“We run the BBC’s international mandate which is to drive profitable business and we are a mature business at scale and with this enhancement we are doing this in a measured way to grow our business and remain in a positive financial position.”

Nic Christensen 


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