Guardian digital revenues boom but the embattled paper still has a mountain to climb

Guardian digital revenues increased by 16.3 per cent in the year to April but owner Guardian News & Media (which also owns the Observer and chunks of Auto Trader and Top Right Group, formerly Emap) still reported a stonking operating loss of £44.2m , up from £31.1m.

GMG is desperately trying to cut costs on its print titles even as it invests more in its digital operation, which recently opened a New York outpost. It recently sold off its radio stations to Global Radio for an estimated £70m.

The famous and justly celebrated Guardian (it broke the story of the phone hacking scandal at the News of the World) has been supported for years now by its investment in Auto Trader, once a humble local giveaway in which car sellers posted pics of their old bangers. Now it’s one of the UK’s most successful digital publishing businesses.

The Guardian website is highly successful too with over 20m regular visitors in the UK and about the same in the US but making money from it is another matter. Last year its revenue rose to £45.7m but that has to be seen in the context of total GNM revenue of £196.2m, showing that the newspapers, both of which are losing circulation fast, still bring in far more much-needed revenue.

Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger (left) says the company’s future is in digital rather than print, which is fair enough. But boosting digital revenue to even half the current overall total is going to be a mighty challenge.

GNM is owned by the Scott Trust which exists to ensure the Guardian newspaper’s survival. So the company has to keep publishing a paper whether it likes it or not. Dealing with the legals of this one day might be the biggest challenge even the embattled GNM has to face.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.