Charging Toward the Digital Age

Sue Gaudi helps protect The Globe and Mail as it changes course in its media offerings

Entering the world of digital media means significant analysis of modern press rights and threats for VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary Sue Gaudi.
Entering the world of digital media means significant analysis of modern press rights and threats for VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary Sue Gaudi.

In the mid-19th century, sometime after sailing across the Atlantic from Scotland, George Brown settled in Toronto and, in 1844, founded The Globe newspaper, which later merged with the The Mail and Empire to form the The Globe and Mail. Today, nearly 170 years later, after having first gone online in 1996 and after carrying out a print and digital rebrand in 2010, the paper, overseen by Globe and Mail Inc. (G&M), has a daily circulation of more than 300,000 and an online reach of more than 3.5 million unique visitors monthly. Its leadership team is still working out how to carry the publication and its component parts fully and stably into the Internet age, and for VP, general counsel, and corporate secretary Sue Gaudi, this work entails significant analysis of modern press rights and new press threats.

“The backbone of my work at The Globe is the defence and advancement of the media’s right to publish and disseminate important information in the public interest,” Gaudi says. “As a VP, I work together with the rest of the executive team to chart the path for The Globe. While the way is not always clear, we take measured risks.”

As an example, Gaudi cites G&M’s shift to a digital subscription model in October 2012, a gamble that banked not only on G&M’s reputation in Canadian and international media circles but also its recognition as a reliable media brand. G&M’s pay wall, which it calls “Globe Unlimited,” offers 10 free articles per month and a flat charge for unlimited article access after that. As of February 2013, the service had already drawn 80,000 readers, becoming a risk worth taking.

“We were right and have been successful at helping to change the culture of ‘free,’ which was not sustainable, as the content our customers want costs money to provide,” Gaudi says.

Not only is The Globe and Mail Canada’s largest-circulated national newspaper (and second-largest daily after the Toronto Star); it’s also considered Canada’s newspaper of record. This presents distinct challenges for G&M as a private company—one that must answer to its readership and its own journalistic role in a shifting media landscape while also accommodating the demands of its shareholders. Gaudi helps the business arrange for new press-specific protections.

By the Numbers

Weekday print subscribers (as of September 2011)

Year The Globe was founded

Saturday print subscribers (as of September 2011)

“Globe Unlimited” digital subscribers

Year The Globe merged with The Mail and Empire

“The Supreme Court of Canada keeps the power of social media and citizen journalism firmly in its sights,” Gaudi says. “For example, we asked the SCC for a new defence of journalism in the public interest, which they granted—but in the form of a public-interest defence for communications, recognizing that journalism is much more democratic now than it has ever been.”

Because such issues get so complex and have such a broad effect, Gaudi is also heavily involved in policy. As a member of the Internet Advertising Bureau’s regulatory committee, she has responded to Canadian Anti-Spam legislation and to the Digital Advertising Alliance of Canada’s self-regulatory principles for online behavioural advertising. At the Canadian Copyright Institute, she also represents the Canadian Newspaper Association.

Gaudi first came to G&M in 2006, following an associate position in the technology group at Torys and an assistant general counsel and chief privacy officer position at the Torstar Corporation. Her work—past and present—is fundamentally tied to the development and the course of the digital revolution, which has proven to be G&M’s greatest catalyst for change in its 169-year history.

“The digital revolution has touched every aspect of this business, from how news and information are gathered to how we distribute it and how consumers want to interact with us,” Gaudi says. “The law affecting this business—either court-made or regulatory—has changed and evolved significantly in the past few years, largely driven by the explosion of digital technology and the effects of that on previously well-established legal principles.”

Following these changes—and actually understanding what, exactly, has changed—informs Gaudi’s efforts as she helps chart a path forward for and with G&M. “There is more news and information now available than ever before—and more ways to get it,” she says. “These are incredibly exciting times, and it is our job to reorient how we look at our business in a way that serves our customers in a sustainable manner.”