Newsweek beefs up Europe newsroom and branches out into sports

Newsweek is rebuilding its Europe proposition, hiring a swath of senior journalists to its London team and aggressively expanding its coverage of foreign affairs and sports across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).

The IBT Media-owned publication has been through several reincarnations over the last few years, and in 2015, it announced it was bringing management of its EMEA editions back under U.S. leadership, which coincided with the departure of former EMEA editor-in-chief Richard Addis.

But with its new Europe editor-in-chief Matt McAllester, who joined last August, on board the team is expanding and ready for the next growth spurt, with the U.S. and EMEA teams well-positioned to work more closely together.

The fact that McAllester has worked almost exclusively for U.S. publications throughout his career will no doubt help. “We share all content digitally, but ultimately we look east, not west,” he said. “I want to increase our coverage in Africa and the Middle East, also. EMEA is the nexus of news for the world, with issues like the refugee crisis in Syria making the regions the world stage for news.”

When it comes to the current digital news landscape and competition, he said, “It doesn’t pay to be intimidated.”

“There are gazillions of people in the world consuming news, and I don’t agree with the doomsayers of the news business. There are huge transitions, but the fact people are consuming news in more ways than ever before is a great opportunity,” he added.

Four well-seasoned editors have joined the team, including former deputy editor of Prospect Magazine Serena Kutchinsky as digital editor of Newsweek Europe. Also, former MailOnline journalist Graham Smith has been brought on board as deputy online news editor.

That takes the total editorial head count to 12 people in London, and more hires are in the pipeline, according to McAllester.

The hires mark quite an aggressive newsroom expansion for the Europe outlet, which had only a smattering of staff when McAllester joined last August. At the time, reports circulated that the print edition was to be culled, though IBT Media swiftly issued a press release disputing that claim and stated that instead the title was experiencing some internal changes in which management of the EMEA teams would come directly under U.S. chief Jim Impoco.

By last summer, the entire Europe magazine team had left; then, several Web editors swiftly followed suit, leaving just a couple of editorial staff at the time McAllester joined.

Now, it’s getting back on track and wants to aggressively scale its digital audiences across EMEA. It currently has 309,000 monthly unique users for desktop users, according to comScore, which doesn’t yet have mobile traffic breakouts for Europe so the actual figure is likely to be far higher. Newsweek claims average page dwell time is 9.4 minutes per user across its EMEA audience. Scaling its video output will be a top priority, according to McAllester, though he said details of those plans are yet to be hammered out.

Newsweek’s U.S. traffic tops 5 million monthly unique visitors, according to comScore (though Newsweek claims it’s at 8 million unique users).

The publication is known for its more in-depth coverage of foreign affairs, technology, culture, business and politics. Now it wants to expand that by branching out further into sports and has hired a new sports writer to get the ball rolling. Focus will be on in-depth coverage of sports that are popular across the EMEA regions, including soccer and athletics. “We’re focusing on deep dives into topics like doping in sports and concussion.”

Newsweek isn’t the only American title to be aggressively scaling its Europe operations. Politico is one of the latest to drive its operations with a series of senior hires to London and Brussels teams at the end of last year.

At a time in which publishing directly to social platforms is fast becoming the new normal, McAllester said that the magazine publisher is eyeing opportunities such as using Facebook Instant Articles, though it’s not one of the U.K. beta partners.

Newsweek currently publishes weekly English print editions in the U.S., EMEA, Asia and Latin America, and has a headcount of more than 80+ globally.

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