The latest set of annual results from the owner of the UK’s The Guardian newspaper show positive trends for online media operations and newspapers as a whole, with figures to substantiate increased digital revenues that have helped offset falling print sales.
This is all the more interesting as The Guardian is one of the few major British newspapers that forgoes paywalls, concentrating instead on growing its readership internationally.
Reporting in its own newspaper, Guardian News & Media cited an annual loss of £30.9 million ($46.65 million) in the year to the end of March 2013, which had fallen by 30 percent from last year’s loss, “as growing digital revenues helped offset the continuing decline in income from print operations.”
According to the report, Guardian News & Media, “which now derives just over 28% of total revenues from online operations,” boosted its digital revenues “by 28.9% from £43.4 million [$65.52 million] to £55.9 million [$84.4 million] in the 12-month period, helping the publisher to slightly increase total revenues year on year to £196.3 million [$296.35 million].”
Guardian iPad subscribers alone rose from 17,000 to 22,951, while Guardian News & Media’s digital display and sponsorship revenues rose by 39 percent year-over-year, online recruitment revenues rose by one third, and subscription/e-commerce revenues increased by 15 percent.
The Guardian print newspaper itself, meanwhile, “sold 187,000 copies a day in June, an 11% year-on-year fall.”
“There is an accelerating rate of migration from print to online consumption of news, with resultant revenue implications for both print and digital business models,” states the report of the directors of Guardian Media Group, Guardian News & Media’s parent. It continues:
“To mitigate this risk the Group has invested in a transformation programme to develop its portfolio of digital products and its international reach.”
Guardian Media Group itself turned around a £75.6 million ($114.13 million) loss for 2012 into profits before tax of £22.7 million ($34.27 million) for 2013.
Guardian Media Group is also unique in that it is owned by the Scott Trust, “created in 1936 to safeguard the journalistic freedom and liberal values of the Guardian … to sustain journalism that is free from commercial or political interference.”
Although in theory this puts the group on a different financial footing than most newspaper publishing operations, the positive results will certainly help secure the Trust’s “core purpose … to secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity.”
Other rival UK publications were less positive. “Guardian News & Media, the publisher of The Guardian and the Observer, lost more than half a million pounds a week last year,” ran a report from conservative daily The Telegraph.
Still, Guardian News & Media’s success in growing digital revenue to offset shrinking print revenues without paywalls and content lock-up not only suggests a way forward for the newspaper industry as a whole, but also offers lessons for other forms of digital print and publishing. And those practices and lessons are likely to influence other areas of publishing more and more as news groups themselves become important e-book publishers.
And avid readers worldwide can continue to enjoy Guardian Books for free.