There is so much to be excited about here that I don't really know where to begin. It might be best to start with a clip from yesterday's announcement:
The Guardian today announced partnerships with some of the most prestigious UK arts institutions to give audiences access to the best cultural performances, shows and events throughout 2012.
By partnering with Glyndebourne, the Royal Opera House, The Young Vic, Art Angel and the Roundhouse the Guardian will offer all more arts multimedia content than ever before.
Following our successful partnership with Glyndebourne last summer, the Guardian is working with the leading opera company again throughout this year to stream five operas. Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen, Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro and Ravel's double-bill of L'Heure Espagnole and L'Enfant et les Sortilèges will be live-streamed direct from Glyndebourne in Sussex. In addition, the Guardian will also be streaming recordings to accompany two other productions this season - The Fairy Queen by Purcell and Rossini's La Cenerentola. Each opera will be available to view again on the Guardian's website, and each will be accompanied by a series of podcasts and videos as well as related editorial, blogs, picture galleries and live chat with the Guardian's expert team of critics.
On Friday 23 March the Guardian is collaborating with Youtube to stream a full day of rehearsals from The Royal Ballet from the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, featuring live streams of two ballets currently in development - a piece by Wayne McGregor, Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet with music by Mark Ronson and costumes by Gareth Pugh, and another piece choreographed by rising star Liam Scarlett, to music from Rachmaninov.
That's pretty explanatory. It's great to see a newspaper approaching the web in such a way; the antidote to the paywall in other words. But what I'm really interested in is how the Guardian's team got to this point. One word - strategy.
Before she moved to be the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia's Graduate School of Journalism, Emily Bell # spent more than a decade working on the Guardian's digital media offerings, setting up Media Guardian # in 2000 and rising to director of digital content for Guardian News & Media by 2006.
She set out to do things the right way. Famously, she has said that she wanted the Guardian to "be of the web, not on it." And she says that the core team followed these principles:
1. They put a high priority on technical excellence "At the paper, however, there was a core of people “who really understood the web,” Bell notes. And having that technical expertise didn’t just mean understanding code and web design and all the rest; it also meant understanding, almost implicitly, user behavior — and transforming the Guardian into a digital-first proposition."
2. They had a financial model that encouraged innovation "At the Guardian, which until 2008 was owned by the Scott Trust #, the profit motive gave way to a broader emphasis on long-term thinking and experimentation. That led, in turn, to “a much higher tolerance for innovation” than the paper’s competitors, Bell said. The two most successful outlets in Britain, online, were the BBC and The Guardian, she noted — “neither of whom had to speak to shareholders.” Guardian staffers had greater financial leeway than most of their revenue-focused counterparts to experiment, innovate, and, importantly, fail."
3. They had a clear aim in their innovation strategy "“I’m not a massive fan of PowerPoint,” Bell confessed. But! Part of what allowed for the Guardian’s nimbleness when it came to innovation, she said, was that it “developed a really clear strategy.” The paper took the original tenets of Guardian journalism # laid out by C.P. Scott and fused them, essentially, onto the networked infrastructure of the Internet. “Really, we’re about reaching as many people as possible in the world,” she said — and so the question for the Guardian’s staff became how to extend their reach using the tools of the web.
Part of that came down to a general openness to users. Bell created the Guardian’s Comment Is Free section # (“which I think some of the Guardian columnists would like to see me imprisoned for!”) based on the recognition that the future will be increasingly networked, conversational, and participatory.
This was the way that commentary would work under a collective brand for the foreseeable future."
If you follow the links that I've posted above, the whole story will unfold. And that story shows how a media organization came to recognize that it's not just them that are in the content business, as pointed out by the Online Journalism Blog #.