The Guardian has taken a big step across the pond today with its launch of a U.S. homepage at guardiannews.com. The design is consistent with the U.K. front page, but the stories and sections are tailored to a U.S. audience. In her editorial announcing the launch, Guardian US Editor-In-Chief Janine Gibson calls it "the first tiny step in our bid to improve the Guardian website for US users," marking the beginning of the organization's new digital operations based in New York City.

Gibson goes to great lengths to downplay the importance of this launch, calling it "very, very beta," but there are some big announcements here beyond just this homepage news. The announcement also says that the Guardian is hiring a whole U.S.-based newsroom. Today's U.S. homepage launch appears to be just one step in the Guardian's transformation into a full-fledged international news organization.

Coming to America

Last week, the Guardian added to its robust suite of mobile apps with the launch of a free Android app. Georgina Henry, head of the Guardian's website, said that this launch was an effort to capture a rapidly growing mobile audience. The paper already offered a free iPhone app for U.S. users, as well as a full-fledged mobile site. The mobile apps are designed to gather maximum eyeballs, with attention-grabbing features like homepage personalization and read-it-later storage.

This gives the Guardian a pretty full arsenal to enter the U.S. market. The New York Times, the Guardian's clearest competitor (Disclosure: and RWW syndication partner), also offers a range of mobile applications, but many of their features require a subscription. While the Guardian's U.K. app is subscription-based, its U.S. products are free so far. If advertising eyeballs is what the Guardian wants in the U.S., it now has a range of ways to find them.

Digital First

The Guardian announced its intentions to become a digital-first news organization in June. Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media (publisher of the Guardian), explicitly declared the organization's intention to "move beyond the newspaper" and focus future investments on digital growth. "Every newspaper is on a journey into some kind of digital future," Rusbridger said. "That doesn't mean getting out of print, but it does require a greater focus of attention, imagination and resource on the various forms that digital future is likely to take."

Rusbridger also noted in June that the Guardian was "expanding into America." Today's announcements make clear the scope of that effort.

Data Journalism

Long before the Guardian made its digital-first intentions clear, the organization was a pioneer of Web technology and big data in journalism. In 2009, the Guardian opened its APIs and data stores to developers (as did the New York Times, the BBC and NPR). The Guardian has also advocated for open data in general, offering a government data search engine that searches across U.K., U.S., New Zealand, and Australian sites. The Guardian has been a partner in publishing Wikileaks information, and the organization has publicly described its data journalism practices in great detail.

What Web-based features do you want from news organizations?