Guardian will survive because ‘we’ve assets outside of the Guardian,’ says chief exec

Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland | Paid Content
Guardian Media Group has “a loss-making core newspaper, but it’s subsidized by other assets we can draw on when we need to,” Guardian Media Group Chief Executive Andrew Miller said at a conference. That doesn’t mean its owners have given up on attempts to “optimise the economics of the paper,” Padraic Ryan quotes Miller as saying.

He said this latter element involved “format changes, and price rises, continuing pressure on the cost base.”

This summer Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger told staffers the company’s papers (it also owns The Observer) will reduce their workforces and do less “commodity journalism.”

Guardian Media Group’s only shareholder is the Scott Trust, whose “core purpose is to secure the financial and editorial independence of the Guardian in perpetuity.” Guardian media and technology head Dan Sabbagh told the conference that the arrangement frees the paper from the whims of a wealthy owner. According to Ryan:

He said that in most cases, ownership of newspapers had drifted to what he called a poor football model, where the businesses were funded by “lively characters” – a model that carried with it a certain burden.

Operating under a trust is, apparently, not significantly less lively. The Guardian has embraced what it calls “open journalism” as one way to realign its journalism model with its revenues. This summer, anyway, it helped keep outside writers alive writing pieces about whether or not the paper will survive (e.g., Intelligent Life, July/August 2012; GQ, July 3, 2012).

Both those stories focused on the same economic realities that are grinding down publications with more traditional funding arrangements — tumbling print revenues that aren’t offset even by the sort of glorious Web traffic the Guardian vacuums up. Robert Andrews writes that Guardian Media Group is holding “half-shares in specialist business publishers Trader Media Group and Top Right Group, alongside co-owner Apax” while the newspaper tries to square that circle somehow.

One day soon, GMG will sell those assets for a windfall, from which it will get to finance its loss-making news operation, buying it time to make Guardian News & Media profitable in the digital environment.

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  • Don Montague

    “Guardian Media Group’s only shareholder is the Scott Trust”
    This is, sadly, not true. I don’t know whether to be annoyed or just depressed, at the repeated misrepresentation of The Scott Trust Limited in the columns of the Guardian and elsewhere.
    These are the facts: The first Scott Trust was set up by my great-uncle John Russell Scott in 1936, and was superseded by the second Scott Trust in 1948, of which my late father was a trustee.
    In October 2008 the then trustees in their wisdom wound up the second Scott Trust, and replaced it with a not-for profit company, The Scott Trust Limited, with broadly the same objectives as the trust but a very different constitution.
    The Scott Trust Limited is owned by five of its directors, and in turn owns all the shares in
    the Guardian Media Group, the parent company of Guardian New & Media, owner of the Guardian.
    The Scott Trust Limited is NOT a trust, despite the repeated references to it as a trust, in the Guardian and elsewhere, and this continued repetition will not make that true.
    There is a Scott Trust in existence, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Guardian newspaper: see:
    https://www.cafonline.org/system/charity-profile.aspx?friendlyUrl=THE-SCOTT-TRUST/CCRegNo278905