“It has been a very challenging year, but we are coming out the other side of it now,” is how Guardian Australia managing director Dan Stinton summed up 2020 three quarters through the tumultuous year.
The Australian operation of the global news brand has enjoyed increased engagement from readers as have publishers globally during 2020.
“We have had a massive surge in audience – we went from about 6m monthly when the bushfires were on in January and then we virtually doubled our audience to almost 12m,” Stinton told Mediaweek. “We were already on a fairly strong growth trajectory and we remain the fastest growing publisher from an audience perspective in Nielsen’s top 10.
“What the coronavirus has done this year was to accelerate that very quickly. That has had major benefits for us – more readers have been prepared to support Guardian Australia financially.
“Regarding advertising it was quite scary for us at the start of the pandemic, which saw more advertisers cancelling rather than booking. We are now able to report however that ad bookings have rebounded very strongly and that comes after people realise we have had massive audience growth. Advertisers are recognising we are one of the leading news brands in the country and booking with us direct.
“Programmatic advertising has suffered this year which is more a symptom of the market. It went down a lot and then came back, but it hasn’t recovered yet to what it was before the pandemic. We expect more growth heading into Christmas though.
“To summarise, what the pandemic has done is accelerate trends already taking place. For example audiences moving from print to digital have increased and there has been an increase with peoples’ propensity to pay for news and there has been an increase in advertisers moving from print to digital.”
Guardian Australia’s New Zealand play
“We just dipped our toe in the water,” said Stinton about how Guardian Australia flirted with editorial expansion into New Zealand with just one hire and a freelance budget.
“We have really been encouraged with the response from that. What we now have for readers in New Zealand is a specific section on the home page that launches with New Zealand-specific stories. It launched last year and the traffic has been amazing and there is much interest from advertisers too.
“We are now in the process of planning our next move in New Zealand. It is likely that there will be greater investment.”
While Guardian Australia maintains a full time reporter, Stinton noted the pool of contributing writers.
The publisher is expected to make an announcement soon too about advertising representation in New Zealand.
Investment roadmap for Australia
“We are well ahead of our audience and revenue projections that were outlined in our current strategic plan a couple of years ago,” said Stinton. “We have done that with a newsroom which is comparatively small compared to News Corp Australia and Nine.
“We are definitely going to be investing more into expanding our newsroom and broadening our coverage which will start in 2021. We are currently planning that investment.”