Tim Brooks, managing director of Guardian News & Media, pulls no punches on his tour of the company's new state-of-the-art premises in King's Cross, describing them as "the best multimedia offices of any newspaper in the world".
His whistlestop preview takes in the TV studio for filming round-table discussions, seven studios dedicated to recording podcasts, and the "Curly Wurly" - a squiggle-shaped desk for the day's editors across print and online, which is staffed around the clock following the appointment of two night news editors this month.
There may be nods to The Guardian's heritage - the original doorframes of The Manchester Guardian's leader writers line the corridor to Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger's office - but GN&M's new home in the £100m King's Place development is a clear statement of the company's global multimedia agenda.
Of GN&M's old premises at 119 Farringdon Road - a "tired" 1970s building designed for light industrial use - Brooks says: "We were in premises designed before computers and we had to layer technology onto those buildings. The offices weren't fit for purpose and that came to a head with multimedia becoming an element."
The move was completed on 22 December and GN&M is now a tenant in arts-loving developer Peter Millican's mixed-use scheme. The company occupies three-and-a-half floors overlooking a spur of the Regent's Canal, sharing the space with two concert halls, two art galleries, a restaurant and a bar, and - incongruously - Network Rail.
The relocation has allowed GN&M to integrate The Guardian, The Observer and Guardian.co.uk newsrooms, with news, business and sport journalists providing text, audio and video across all three platforms. Other specialist areas, such as environment and international news, have been grouped into specialist pods.
"There was a lot of scepticism initially because people had loyalties to their original homes," Brooks says. "But Juliette Jowit, environment editor of The Observer, was able to have the lead story in both the Saturday Guardian and the following day's Observer. That is how it is supposed to work - that is the ideal."
The first editorial working day at King's Place was 14 December and Brooks is pleased that - despite the upheaval of the move - The Guardian beat The Times to break the verdict of the Rhys Jones murder trial.
And, as rival papers announce swathes of redundancies, Brooks is proud the integration process involved no editorial job losses - although he concedes that the 100 commercial redundancies in 2007 put GN&M in "better shape" to enter the economic downturn. The company is also set apart thanks to its unique ownership by the Scott Trust, whose sole purpose is to "invest in the quality of The Guardian".
He explains: "We have no shareholders and all the profits of businesses owned by the Scott Trust go back into this company. So making editorial cuts is literally the last thing we would do. But I am not saying we would never make editorial cuts because in 2009 all bets are off - this is the worst year of my life in terms of trading."
The Guardian is holding its own in the quality press market, with the paper's December ABC of 343,010 down 4.3% on the preceding month, and its average July to December circulation of 345,884 down 4% on the same period in 2007.
Nevertheless, Brooks admits the outlook for print is rocky. "Every paper is selling fewer copies than a year ago. The ad market is tightening radically and people are thinking twice about what they spend, even on items as small as a paper." He later adds: "I will never launch another print product - why would you?"
When Brooks, the co-founder of Media Week, was last interviewed by this magazine in 2005, he predicted that most B2B magazines would be online-only by 2010 and he forecasts that some national papers will similarly drop out of the market in the next two years, with Independent News & Media's titles the "most challenged".
On IN&M's planned move to Associated's HQ, he says: "You know those Hammer Horror movies where you get travellers being pursued by wolves through a dark wood and they come across a castle and the door is answered by Count Dracula? That's what I think about The Independent - it is in the castle of Count Dracula."
Meanwhile, raw paper prices are forecast to rise 16% this year - and, with the cover prices of The Guardian (Monday to Friday) and Observer fixed at 80p and £1.90 respectively since September 2007, Brooks does not rule out further price hikes. He says: "Any business that says it would never raise its prices is bonkers."
GN&M's long-term strategy is to become "the world's leading liberal voice", building on international moves such as the launch of Guardian America in 2007, which now attracts between six and seven million users.
However, although GN&M will launch a news wire serving the Arab region in the first quarter of this year, Brooks rules out further global expansion in 2009, indicating that 2010 will be the time for moves into "Anglophone markets, growth markets and countries where there is no strong tradition of free speech in print".
He says: "The bulk of our business is still in print, but equally the growth of the business will be in digital, and much of that growth will be outside the UK. Our journalism is now reaching 20 times more people than it did 10 years ago [GN&M has an estimated global reach of 30,007,667] and that is as a result of the web."
Paper prices may be soaring, readers may be losing their appetite for print news and the ad market may be in freefall, but GN&M's belief in the quality of its editorial should keep the wolves from the castle of Count Brooks in the annus horribilis of 2009.
2006 Managing director, Guardian News & Media
2003 Managing director, IPC Ignite
2000 Managing director, IPC Southbank
1999 Network managing director, Emap UK
1994 Director, Emap Business Comms
1992 Publishing director, Emap Business Communications
1991 Head of corporate planning, Emap
1989 Managing director of start-up publishing business in Australia
1985 Co-founder and launch editor, Media Week
2008-2010 Chair of the Newspaper Publishers Association
Family Married with three children
Lives Harpenden, Hertfordshire
Favourite bands Elbow, Joan as Policewoman, Cat Power
Football team Arsenal
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