Guardian builds a business around ‘snacking’

Journalism.co.uk | CJR | PressGazette

Guardian CEO Andrew Miller told attendees of the Digital Media Strategies conference in London that his publication doesn’t assume readers stay with one news source all day long, Rachel Bartlett reports. Keeping the doors to its journalism open, Miller said, means a big audience outside the publication’s native U.K. And indeed the Guardian recently reported double-digit growth in digital revenue.

“The reality of the world is that people snack,” he said, and the Guardian approach is to “build a business around that”, he added.

Miller said entities that refer traffic to the Guardian “aren’t our enemies, these are our friends.” He said it’s “essential to our business model to ensure our journalism is read,” Bartlett reports.

“This isn’t about trying to protect old business models. It is about how the web works.”

A display in the Guardian’s offices in 2013. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)


But The Guardian “still loses gob-smacking amounts of money,” Ryan Chittum writes in CJR. ” Even if the paper somehow managed to kept costs flat in 2013-2014, it still would post a $34 million loss and have a profit margin of negative 10 percent, by my calculations.”

(Indeed, Bartlett reports Miller said The Guardian is “loss-making.”) But in the newspaper business of 2014, growth in top-line figures is a story worth telling. Chittum notes The New York Times’ revenue from digital ads has flattened while The Guardian’s has grown.

The Times needs to study very closely how The Guardian is growing digital ads. Was it through sharply higher unique visitors and clicks? Did they manage to increase rates somehow? Are the country-focused international editions moving the needle, as they say? Perhaps the NYT needs a dating site? For now, The Guardian simply reports that “the key drivers (are) a rise in online advertising and recruitment and a rise in online apps and mobile websites, as well as the continuing popularity of dating site Guardian Soulmates.” Its annual report won’t be published until mid-summer.

The Times, of course, has a revenue stream The Guardian doesn’t — people who pay to read its journalism online. The Guardian won’t install a paywall, Bartlett reports Miller said: “that horse has bolted.” But it does plan some sort of membership program.

At the same conference News UK CEO Mike Darcey said The Guardian was “very brave to bet the entire business, the basic ability to pay your journalists” on free content “playing out well, indefinitely.”

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