WASHINGTON (AFP) — GlobalPost, a Web-based news service, goes online on Monday with the goal of covering the world for American readers at a time when US newspapers are struggling and cutting back on foreign coverage.
"It's a huge challenge," GlobalPost president and chief executive officer Philip Balboni said of launching an ambitious news venture amid such turmoil and uncertainty in the business.
"No one has done it," Balboni, a veteran television executive who founded the New England Cable News network, told AFP. "Probably because it's not easy to do."
Balboni said the Boston-based GlobalPost.com will rely on a network of 70 correspondents in 53 countries to provide coverage of world events for a US audience he believes is hungry for international news.
"There are scores of millions of Americans who are deeply interested in what's going on and yet they have no reliable source for broad coverage of the world from an American news organization," he said.
"To find high-quality reporting, even on the Web, requires you to go essentially outside the American orbit," he said. "Our goal is to cover the world for Americans first and then for other English readers as well."
He said GlobalPost would not cover US domestic news. "We'll have someone in Washington covering foreign policy and that's as far as we're going."
GlobalPost is entering the highly competitive news arena as US newspapers lay off hundreds of reporters to cope with a steady decline in print advertising revenue and the migration of readers to free news sites online.
Only a handful of US newspapers still maintain foreign bureaus, Balboni noted, and "some of those are threatened as to how long they can continue."
He said GlobalPost had to devise a new business and editorial model to maintain a global stable of correspondents.
"It's obvious to anyone that you could not create a new international news organization that looked exactly like some of the ones that have existed," he said, adding that his reporters would shoot their own photos and videos.
Balboni said GlobalPost's correspondents, which include veterans of The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN and other major news organizations, would receive a guaranteed retainer of 1,000 dollars a month and shares in the company.
GlobalPost employees will hold 48 percent of the venture with the remainder belonging to the major investors, billionaire Amos Hofstetter, the founder of Continental Cablevision; Benjamin Taylor, a former publisher of the Boston Globe, and Paul Sagan, chief executive of Akamai Technologies.
Balboni said GlobalPost was counting on three different revenue streams to fund the operation: advertising, syndication to US and foreign newspapers, and a "premium content" area of the website.
All of the content will be free when globalpost.com goes live on Monday, he said, and the "premium content" will become available to subscribers starting in mid-February for 199 dollars a year.
As for newspaper syndication, "we've priced it in a very affordable way so that even in these distressed economic times it's financially affordable," Balboni said. "We've had a very good response.
"We really see ourselves as a great partner to newspapers not as competition for the Associated Press or Reuters or AFP but as a supplement because we're not covering breaking news for the most part," he said. "We're covering the stories that are often left aside as people are running after the main story."
Balboni said he was convinced readers could be persuaded to pay for quality news content online, a move which has proved challenging for news organizations worldwide with a few exceptions such as the Wall Street Journal.
"I feel that it's going to be imperative for there to be a consumer aspect to news websites," he said. "I just don't think great journalism will survive if people aren't willing to pay for it on the Web."
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