GlobalPost memo says overseas news doing well

April 6, 2009

Newly launched international news service GlobalPost.com had a good first quarter and sees positive signs for the rest of the year, including coming in under budget and raising more money to finance its operations. That’s not bad, and looks all the better considering how the news business is under assault these days. Oh, and it aims to be cash-flow positive by the fourth quarter of 2011.

Here is a quick reminder of what GlobalPost is, lifted from a story I wrote about it earlier this year:

With 65 correspondents in 46 countries, GlobalPost will have its own website and sell news to papers whose readers want in-depth, analytical stories that supplement what they get from news wires such as The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg.

The idea is that, as U.S. newspapers cut overseas staff to save money, GlobalPost would step in with a network of regular freelancers to help fill the gap. Its importance on a wider level is that it wants to find a way to sustain a viable overseas news service at a time when it looks like the old advertising/subscription model is moribund and the future is bleaker than ever. Its success could provide some clues to old media news outlets on how they can survive.

Here are excerpts from Chief Executive Philip Balboni’s first-quarter memo, with areas in boldface highlighted by me.

In March we had 440,000 visits to GlobalPost, a 67% increase over February’s 264,000 visits. We recorded 135,000 unique users in March, up 23% over February. Unique users are the bedrock of internet measurement and indicate viewing or use by a single person or computer IP address. Our goal is to increase unique users to 600,000 a month by the end of 2009. That is an ambitious objective but one we believe we can achieve.

Pages viewed on the site totaled 844,000 in March, up a stunning 91% over the prior month, while average pages consumed per user was 1.92. Finally, time spent on GlobalPost per user rose 20% in March to two minutes and 52 seconds. Of great importance, returning visitors totaled 71% of all visitors in March, demonstrating conclusively that once exposed to our content people returned for more, and often many times. …

We have already signed agreements with 11 media entities ranging from the New York Daily News and the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to CBS Radio News and the new PBS distributed nightly television news program Worldfocus to smaller newspapers and websites including the much talked about MinnPost, the online news site serving Minneapolis-St. Paul. As of this month, we have reached 60% of booked business toward our annual revenue goal and I think we feel confident now that we will exceed it. We have more than 20 solid prospects who have shown active interest in subscribing to GlobalPost and this week we will launch a major push internationally with important English-language daily newspapers in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Advertising on the site has been slow to develop, but we had expected this would be the case even before the global recession hit and took advertising down with it. Nevertheless, we have booked business equal to about 8% of our annual goal and we are just now starting to see an uptick in the marketplace. …

I am pleased to report that as of March 31 we are 15% under budget for the company as a whole. … Thanks to our investors, who now number 20, we are well capitalized and we have a strong balance sheet. We have raised $8.5 million to date and have room for several new investors up to an additional $1.5 million. We are in talks with a number of potential investors and it is our hope to complete our fund-raising before the end of the year.

Over the last several weeks I have shared with our management team and most recently with our Board my strategy for taking GlobalPost to a self-sustaining or cash flow positive basis by the fourth quarter of 2011. We are very focused on this goal and have identified precisely what we need to do to get there. We are confident of meeting our objectives.

(Photo: Reuters)

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