While many major multinational corporations have had to pursue a
"think global, act local" strategy in order to connect with different
international markets, the owners of leading international media brands
have also had to spend a lot of time and effort balancing the
global-local equation. Multinational values and distribution have to be
tempered by relevance at a local level and sensitivity to the needs of
an audience in a particular region. It can be a difficult balancing act
to pull off.
"We have been completely convinced by the global nature of the business
news story for more than ten years," Dick Tofel, the assistant to the
publisher of The Wall Street Journal, says. "But we also have an old
saying in America: 'where you stand depends on where you sit.' That's
true for readers as well."
The WSJ makes use of its parent company Dow Jones' news network of more
than 1,600 editors and reporters, which is claimed to be the largest
network of business journalists in the world but, on the other hand, it
has US, Asian and European versions of the newspaper. Decisions on
content for each version of the WSJ are taken by editors on the ground,
in order, Tofel says, to avoid a "formulaic approach to
Bloomberg, the financial TV channel, thinks it is important to localise
further. It broadcasts in seven languages, five of which are available
in Europe: English, French, German, Italian and Spanish.
"We believe that in order to be a successful pan-European broadcaster
you need to broadcast in the local language and tailor content," Trevor
Fellows, the head of media sales at Bloomberg, says. "All of our
channels are editorially separate. We know from our research that if you
are German you don't want to watch your news programming in
Fellows says he is increasingly seeing business advertisers supplying
versions of commercials in different languages, rather than a single
English-language execution, in order to appear relevant and communicate
effectively across Europe.
Jonathan Howlett, the director of airtime sales at BBC World, the
commercial channel that is distributed globally by cable and satellite,
agrees that advertisers are looking at country-specific advertising and
choosing which "feeds" to take. However, he feels that too much
localisation may be a bad thing.
The BBC World view is that its target audience is a "corporate nation"
comprising people with an international perspective.
Given that these mainly "upscale" people have similar views, it should
be possible to produce programming that, although it is aired worldwide,
still reflects the concerns and interests of this audience.
"International businessmen tend to have more in common with groups of
similar people in other countries than they do with different sorts of
people in their own country," Howlett says.
For the most part, BBC World's programming remains consistent the world
over, although there are some concessions to local markets. Last year
saw the launch of Asia Business Report, shown in the mornings in Asia,
which is not transmitted in Europe - mainly because the business
audience there would be likely to be asleep at the time. India is the
main exception to BBC World's policy of broad content consistency in
that there is a greater element of lifestyle programming.
"It is a fine balancing act but the channel has not rushed into just
producing local programmes," Howlett says. "If you want local news you
will go to the local news channel. There is genuine demand for a real
CNN, the 21-year-old news channel, now has more than 30 brand extensions
worldwide on TV, the internet, radio and mobile services. In 1997 it
began to regionalise its TV output and now has six separately scheduled
English language TV stations serving different regions of the world. In
addition, it has introduced local language television services in
Spanish, Turkish and German. There are also six local language news
websites, with a seventh - CNNArabic.com - due to launch next year.
"Regionalisation allows us to give advertisers a two-pronged solution,"
Kevin Razvi, the executive vice-president of Turner Broadcasting System
International, says. Advertisers can go for the pan-regional or the more
local services - or combine the two and maximise their reach through
It is often difficult for advertisers and media buyers to get a firm
handle on international media. As Hans Germeraad, The Media Edge's chief
executive for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, puts it, the
increasing localisation of content and advertising opportunities, aided
by developing technology, means that national planning and international
planning should be combined.
"There's a danger that if you are an international player and tip the
balance in favour of being too localised, you end up going head to head
with the indigenous players," Mark Proudfoot, MindShare's managing
partner, says. "But the danger with a pan-European channel trying to
appeal to everyone is that it becomes anodyne." An attempt to avoid the
anodyne was a factor behind the summer relaunch by Time Inc of its
Asiaweek title. Time has put greater emphasis on lifestyle coverage in a
bid to make it appear more of a fun read.
The supra-national business media brands face competition from both
national and international rivals in every country. Their core audience
of business people is busy and often overwhelmed with information.
Consequently, being a must-see product presents an ever more daunting