Italian Insider: Italy’s first English language newspaper

Italian Insider aims to provide an objective source of daily news about Italian affairs and the Mediterranean in English for foreign business people who work or want to invest in Italy and for the growing number of expatriate English-speaking communities on the peninsula as well as even-handed reporting for Italians looking for independent coverage that is not always available in local media.

With news, features and investigations and diplomatic reports from some of the most accomplished and experienced foreign journalists working in Rome and other cities, Italian Insider provides potential access for advertisers and sponsors to an estimated 250,000 English speakers in the Rome area alone.

Insider’s chief editor John Phillips became interested in such newspapers’ potential while working as a correspondent for The Times of London in the Balkans in 2000. Phillips travelled to Moscow in 2003 to meet executives of the highly-successful Moscow Times group to seek advice on how they had established their newspaper. The Moscow Times, which would be sold to a Finnish publisher in 2006 for some 300 million euros, was created by a Dutch entrepreneur to meet the needs of the English-speaking business community in Russia, obtaining sponsorship from foreign and Russian investors who pledged advertising revenue.

Together with other colleagues from The Times, Phillips launched in 2006 the first English-language newspaper for The Balkans, The Belgrade Times. The free newspaper was warmly praised by businessmen, diplomats and educated Serbs.

Italy’s English-speaking readership market is far larger than that in Belgrade with year-around mass tourism and expatriates working for a constellation of foreign companies, embassies, the Vatican and the three Rome-based U.N. agencies, the FAO, WFP and IFAD, the U.S. Navy 6th Fleet at Naples and other U.S. bases at Vicenza, Aviano and elsewhere.

An English-language daily, the Rome Daily American, was set up by newspapermen from the U.S. Army paper Stars and Stripes in Rome in 1945, with financing by the tobacco heiress Doris Duke. It survived until the late 1970s when a similar newspaper, the Rome International Daily News, was founded, only to fold in 1983 as the Anglo-Saxon community dwindled under pressure from the Italian taxman.


Since the mid 1990s large scale immigration to Italy from English-speaking developing countries has expanded the potential English readership enormously with tens of thousands of workers and their families arriving from Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Egypt, Nigeria and elsewhere. None of these immigrants speak Italian when they arrive but they all read English.

While their incomes are below those of expatriate business people they nevertheless use services and have consumption patterns that hold out the prospect of lucrative advertising income for Italian Insider. All these immigrants use Western Union and other money transfer services to send remittances home, travel on major airlines, use travel agencies, and buy mobile cell phones, motor scooters and small cars.

The Paris International Herald Tribune has printed in Milan since 1984 after the International Daily News folded. With its exclusive diet of New York Times dispatches, however, it has scant coverage of Italian business or current affairs except for major news events such as papal conclaves or political elections. With a cover price of 2 1\2 euros the IHT is beyond the budget of the mass English-speaking immigrant community and too staid in format for many tourists.


In recent years a rash of cultural publications and websites have sprouted up in Rome for instance America magazine and the Roman Forum. However none of these are capable of providing the kind of hard news coverage or specialised reporting that would attract Insider’s target readership such as diplomatic news for the embassy communities or Asian news for the immigrant communities.

Insider has a team of highly experienced journalists each of whom has decades of knowledge of Italy and the Mediterranean. John Phillips has worked for The Times in Rome and the Balkans. His latest book (with Martin Evans) is Algeria: Anger of the Dispossessed. Philip Willan has been a correspondent for The Guardian and has written and worked on a number of investigative books about Italy and the Vatican. Desmond O’Grady is a correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald. Megan Williams is the Italy correspondent for CBC radio and TV and files for other public radios around the world. Liliana Bonfiglio designed the distinctive Insider website.

Ms Bonfiglio tackled all the relevant Italian domain name registration requirements with appropriate authorities meaning that Italian Insider is the first venture of its kind positioned to offer daily online breaking news coverage of Italy as well as features, business reporting, city guide to Rome, reviews of books about Italy and the latest diplomatic analysis and scuttlebutt.

Insider’s first print editions have included exclusive reports from Libya on the battle developing over the succession to Col. Moammar Gedhafi, the little-known business successes of Naples, anti-mafia entrepreneurs in Palermo and a sample of Megan Williams’ light-hearted commentaries on Italian lifestyle.

In addition to providing a daily newspaper in cyberspace, the website is a platform for the print version of the Insider that provides an English-language version of the tabloid free press Italian newspapers that have been successfully launched in Rome recently. The newspaper is distributed at key locations for expatriates such as Rome’s foreign schools and universities, hotels and restaurants, book shops, churches and embassies.


14 Mar 2011