The Guardian’s parent company has recorded its strongest financial results since 2008, aided by more contributions from online readers and increased income from its international operations.
Annual revenues at Guardian Media Group grew by 13% to £255.8m, its highest income since audiences shifted online and destroyed the traditional newspaper business. The company also produced a cash surplus for the first time in many years.
The Guardian’s online readers now contribute more money to the Guardian than readers of its UK print newspapers. When digital advertising and other income is taken into account, more than two-thirds of Guardian Media Group’s total income now comes from its online operations.
Keith Underwood, the interim chief executive, said: “Strong revenue growth and our best cash performance in decades have firmly established a sustainable platform from which we can make strategic investments to grow the Guardian’s global reach, impact and revenue.
“Economic and market conditions will be challenging in the year ahead. However, with outstanding journalism, a trusted brand, and the financial resources to invest, we are well placed to continue our growth strategy.”
Unlike other British newspaper groups, the Guardian is not owned by a wealthy individual or a listed company that has to return profits to shareholders. Instead, its owner is the Scott Trust, which maintains an investment fund – now worth £1.3bn – that is used to subsidize the newspaper and secure the Guardian’s editorial independence.
The Scott Trust has historically given Guardian Media Group access to a cash injection of up to £30m a year. The latest financial accounts, which cover the 12 months to April 2022, show that Guardian Media Group performed so well it instead produced a cash surplus of £6.7m.
A spokesperson for Guardian Media Group said it expected to dip back into this funding next year to facilitate targeted investment in hiring more journalists in specific editorial areas, as well as investing in new technology.
Next year could be tougher for the media industry, with an economic slowdown expected to hit advertising revenue. The costs of printing a daily newspaper are also increasing substantially for all publishers due to the rapidly increasing price of paper.
The Guardian’s transformation to a business based on digital income is more advanced than at most other UK newspapers, which are facing ongoing decline. While the company has 120,000 print subscribers to the Guardian and the Observer, it now has more than a million digital supporters making ongoing contributions for its website and app.
The increase in revenue means Guardian Media Group is bringing in more revenue than Telegraph Media Group for the first time.
The accounts show that the Guardian editor-in-chief, Katharine Viner, received a pay rise to £495,000, following an independent salary review by the Scott Trust. The former chief executive Annette Thomas, who departed last year, received a one-off payment of £795,000 to cover her notice period.
The Guardian has invested heavily in its outlets in the US and Australia, with further investment anticipated in its European operations. These continue to grow rapidly and attract paying readers, with more than a third of the company’s total income coming from outside the UK.
The Guardian Media Group chair, Charles Gurassa, said the results vindicated the decision made six years ago to ask for financial support from online readers, rather than follow many other news sites and put up a paywall. “Their support means the organization can continue to invest in quality journalism, enabling broader and deeper coverage of the events that matter around the world and providing highly trusted independent news to our global audiences.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism