05/08/2014 06:14 BST | Updated 02/10/2014 06:59 BST

The Internationalisation of Press

In the opening scene of Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, a megalomaniacal media mogul struts around a cavernous control centre (holding something that looks oddly like an iPad) barking orders to his disciples and deciding what havoc to wreak next.

That film was made in 1997 and it was ahead of its time. Although media moguls have been a fixture of pop culture for decades - from Ted Turner to Rupert Murdoch to Richard Desmond - and facsimile newspapers have existed for over a century, only in the past couple of years have the rise of digital networks really facilitated the internationalisation of press.

People in London never used to read the New York Times. Or for that matter, they never used to read The Herald-Tribune, as the global edition of the NYT was named until last year when the American brand went global. Now Facebook, Twitter and other sharing channels are bringing NYT content to everyone.

Not only are consumers reading online newspapers in growing numbers (online readership is on the increase at a time when - as we all know - local printed newspapers have been dying a slow and painful death), but interestingly, their primary online newspaper is increasingly likely to be based in a country other than their own.

As print newspapers around the world race to digitally transform themselves into online content providers, what I find really intriguing is the selection of brands that are winning the race to become part of a new elite: a group of five to ten media outlets that are turning into truly global players.

The New York Times is one such example, but it's not just a case of Americanism sweeping over the world. The world's biggest online newspaper is Britain's Daily Mail. (It might be some comfort to more liberal-leaning Brits that the Daily Mail's online content is considerably less politicized than the print edition in the UK.)

A curious thing happened when I was recently in California. A very normal American friend of mine excitedly shouted 'you must see this new iPhone app! Everyone is going crazy over it!'. The app was MailOnline. I was genuinely shocked that anyone in California, let alone my friend, would want to read the Daily Mail. Nothing against the Daily Mail, it's just not, you know, very Californian... It really made it clear to me that the rules have changed. Newspapers are now global creatures.

I predict in five years time, the e-newspaper industry will be dominated by no more than ten global brands. Old titles - once considered institutions of record, such as The Times in London (now owned by News Corporation) - don't even seem to be playing in the race.


March 2014 statistics from ComScore published by The Economist cite The Daily Mail as the print newspaper with more unique monthly desktop users than any other title, followed closely by The New York Times followed by another British publication, The Guardian. (Huffington Post, incidentally, has even more readers than any of them.) At all three of those publications, the percentage of readers from that publication's home country is decreasing year-on-year, a sure sign of their growing cross-border reach.

Within a few years, more people will consume newspaper content through digital platforms than those who consume printed newspapers. It's already happening with broadcast TV. When this happens, people are unlikely to be reading their local journal online. They're likely to be reading something written by a journalist sitting in another continent.

The internationalization of press is happening at a fascinating pace before our eyes. With the control of the world's information in the hands of a smaller group of larger media entities, perhaps the reality of Tomorrow Never Dies might actually come to bear. (Albeit - with real iPads).