GMG Digital Revenues Outstrip Print For First Time

Guardian Media Group now earns more money from its digital operations than from its print newspapers for the first time in its history, aided by increased support from readers making online contributions, the publisher announced in its annual report.

GMG said it had a total of 570,000 members who give regular financial support to the organisation, up from 500,000 at the end of last year. Income was further boosted by 375,000 one-off contributions from readers in the past 12 months.

The company said Guardian News & Media Limited, the core business that is publisher of the Guardian, was still on track to break even on an operating basis by the end of the next financial year, having undertaken a radical turnaround plan. GNM’s operating losses fell by two-thirds in the last two years, from £57 million to £19 million.

The company’s annual report, which covers the 12 months to April 2018, shows the Guardian website attracted an average of 155 million monthly unique browsers, up from 140 million the year before, with an increased focus on retaining regular readers rather than chasing traffic by going viral on social networks, the publisher said.

Digital revenues – which include reader contributions and online advertising income – grew 15 per cent to £108.6 million, as income from the print newspaper and events business fell by 10 per cent to £107.5 million.

“Because of the structure of our business and our long-term financial forecasting it allows us to retain print for as long as our readers value it,” said GMG chief executive David Pemsel. “We made the big decision to switch from the Berliner to the tabloid to save that money. People value it and you keep going until they don’t value it.”

Pemsel also said the company focus was on the Guardian’s 10 million regular online readers rather than chasing online traffic by partnering with the likes of Facebook Instant Articles or aggregation services such as Apple News.

“We went from being the ninth largest newspaper [in the UK] to being the third largest in the world,” he said. “We ended up trying to get bigger at any cost and celebrated just getting bigger and bigger. The danger of just chasing reach is you lose sense of the fact that these are just individuals.”

“Our future is dependent editorially, commercially and financially on those 10 million people.”