Guardian Media Group announces outcome of three-year strategy

The Guardian now has over 655,000 monthly paying supporters

Guardian Media Group (GMG) has announced the completion of its three year turnaround strategy launched by editor-in-chief Katharine Viner and CEO David Pemsel in January 2016.

There are the highlights from their statement:

GMG has achieved its key financial goal for its core news business, Guardian News & Media (GNM), to break even at an EBITDA operating level, with profits of £0.8 million. GNM EBITDA losses were £19m in 2017/18, and £57m in 2015/16.

Summary:

Three years of outstanding and award winning Guardian and Observer journalism has included a number of global and national exclusives including the Cambridge Analytica Files, the Windrush revelations and the Panama and Paradise Papers.

The Guardian’s audience has grown substantially with record number of regular readers and digital traffic. The Guardian had over 1.35bn page views in March 2019, compared to 790m in April 2016.

GNM has grown revenues across each of the last three years with revenue growth of 3% to £223 million in 2018/19. Revenues are now at their highest level for a decade.

GNM’s target of reducing costs by over 20% by 2018/19 has been achieved

GNM has achieved its break even goal delivering an operating profit at EBITDA level of £0.8 million.

The Guardian now has over 655,000 monthly paying supporters, across subscribers, recurring contributors and members, and an additional 300,000 one-off contributors in the last year.

55% of GNM revenues are now digital, with good growth in digital advertising, digital subscriptions and reader contributions.

International revenues have doubled since 2015/16 and continue to grow at double-digit levels per year. Both Guardian US and Guardian Australia are now financially sustainable.

GMG’s cashflow for the year is (£29)m, reduced from (£36)m in 2017/18 and (£86)m in 2015/16. At this level, GMG’s cash requirements are financially sustainable, falling within the expected long-term annual returns of the Scott Trust Endowment Fund.

The Guardian’s ‘relationship strategy’ was launched in January 2016 with a goal of creating deeper relationships with readers, increasing reader revenues, and reducing overall costs by 20%. The financial goal of the strategy was for GNM to break even at operating EBITDA level for year ending April 2019.

More people than ever before are reading, watching and listening to Guardian journalism from across the world. Over the past year the Guardian achieved record digital traffic with our highest number of regular readers and monthly page views averaging over 1.1 billion. In March 2019, a record month, the Guardian saw 163m unique browsers and 1.35 billion page views to its sites. The number of regular readers to the Guardian’s platforms has increased by 40% since 2016.

Guardian News and Media, editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner said:

“In times of extraordinary political and economic upheaval the need for quality, independent reporting and commentary has never been greater. Guardian journalism is flourishing – holding the powerful to account and exploring new ideas.

“Thanks to the support of our readers and the incredible hard work and talent of Guardian staff, we have reached an important financial milestone. We are now in a sustainable position, and better able to deliver on our purpose by producing outstanding journalism that understands and illuminates our times.”

Guardian Media Group chief executive David Pemsel said:

“Over the last three years we have made a huge amount of progress, and I’m exceptionally proud of how far we’ve come. Achieving these results is testament to the absolute commitment and ingenuity of everyone within the organisation. We are very grateful for the support of our readers, advertisers and partners who believe in the value of high quality media.

“GMG is now a more reader-funded, more digital, more international business. Although the significant turbulence in the global media sector shows no sign of abating any time soon, we have developed a set of core strengths which will help to ensure the Guardian’s ongoing independence and financial sustainability for the long term.”

GMG’s full audited financial results will be published in July 2019 as normal. A summary of key preliminary 2018/19 results is as follows:

• GNM’s revenues increased for a third successive year, with 2018/19 revenues of £223million, compared to £217m in 2017/18. GNM’s revenues are at their highest for a decade.
• GNM’s costs before exceptional items in 2018/19 were £222m, compared to £235m in 2017/18.
• GMG has achieved its key financial goal for its core news business, Guardian News & Media (GNM), to break even at an EBITDA operating level, with profits of £0.8 million. GNM EBITDA losses were £19m in 2017/18, and £57m in 2015/16.
• GMG is now a majority digital business with £123 million of digital revenues in 2018/19 (2017/18: £108.6m) coming from several digital streams including digital advertising, digital subscriptions and reader contributions. Digital revenues now make up 55% of GMG’s total revenues, compared to 50% in 2017/18 and 40% in 2015/16.
• In 2015 the Guardian had 12,000 members and 175,000 print and digital subscriptions. At the end of 2018/19, the Guardian has over 655,000 regular supporters, comprised of:

365,000 recurring contributors and members.

Digital subscriptions across the Guardian’s premium app and tablet editions stand at 190,000.

Print subscriptions to the Guardian, the Observer and Guardian Weekly are at a record high of 110,000 in total.

In addition, in 2018/19 the Guardian received over 340,000 one-off contributions from more than 300,000 contributors.

• Advertising revenue has remained resilient in a challenging environment, with good growth in digital advertising. Advertising revenues grew by 3% in 2018/19. Print advertising now represents less than 8% of total GNM revenues.
• Guardian US and Guardian Australia have continued to find growing and loyal audiences in their markets. Both businesses are now financially sustainable in their own right, and have seen double-digit revenue growth in 2018/19. GMG’s international revenues have more than doubled since 2015/16 and we expect continued international growth in the year ahead.

In April 2019, Katharine Viner and David Pemsel announced the Guardian’s new three-year strategy.

The key goals of the strategy are:

Two million supporters who financially contribute to the Guardian through regular or one-off payments or subscriptions by 2022

Financial sustainability by ensuring cash requirements remain in line with the expected long-term annual returns of the Scott Trust Endowment Fund of £25-30m.

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