Guardian posts operating profit for first time in two decades

Simon Austin's picture

The Guardian and Observer has broken even for the first time since 1998 after attracting 655,000 regular monthly supporters across both print and digital.

The £800,000 operating profit for the 2018/19 financial year compared to a £57m loss three years previously.

However, the operating profit excludes cash payments of between £25 to £30m for capital costs and other business expenditures, which are an annual draw-down from the Scott Trust. If these annual costs were included, The Guardian would still be loss-making.

Nonetheless, the operating profit marks the completion of a three-year plan that leant heavily on a decision to ask readers to contribute financially for something they could otherwise get for free.

As well as its regular supporters, the company said it had a further 300,000 people making one-off contributions in the last year alone.

The Guardian has taken the decision to keep its journalism outside a paywall, while asking readers to contribute in order to subsidise its reporting.

Total monthly page views increased over the last three years from 790m in January 2016 to 1.35bn in March 2019.

Katharine Viner, the Guardian News & Media editor-in-chief, 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.”

Total revenues at Guardian News & Media grew 3% to £223m a year, at a time when many rival publishers are experiencing substantial declines, with 55% of the company’s income coming from digital activities – a higher proportion than most other British news outlets.

Print advertising accounts for 8% of the company’s total revenue, although the business said it remains committed to producing a print newspaper and has 110,000 print subscribers across the Guardian, Observer and Guardian Weekly.

The company has also reduced costs by 20% over the last three years, with expenditure before exceptional items in 2018-19 falling to £222m, aided by a reduction in headcount. The company said revenues at Guardian US and Guardian Australia have increased substantially, with both outlets considered to be financially sustainable.

 

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