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The Guardian sees huge 61% increase in digital reader revenue


By John McCarthy, Opinion editor

July 27, 2021 | 4 min read

The Guardian Media Group (GMG) has announced statutory results for the 12 months to March 28 2021, a year where its revenue model was put under severe strain during a historic push to profit. Nonetheless, the growth in subscriptions and support proved to see it through the tumultuous period.

200 years for a newspaper is a kind of a big deal. That’s older than the New York Times

The Guardian managed to increase its revenue despite the pandemic

The Drum explores how it managed to increase revenue after breaking even for the first time in mid-2019.

The results

Record readership for the year ending March 28 was at more than 2 billion unique browsers. This mustered almost 20bn page views.

It says its primary financial measure is reduced adjusted net operating cash outflow. This isn’t unusual for a business striving to reduce costs and hit profit. The outflow moved from £29m to £15.6m – effectively halved.

Group revenues increased by 0.9% to £225.5m. There was record growth in digital reader revenues (across subscriptions and contributions), offset by declines in advertising revenues and newsstand sales.

Digital subscriptions and recurring contributions grew by 33% to 961,000, increasing digital reader revenue to £68.7m by a huge 61%.

International revenues grew by 26%, accounting for more than 30% of total revenue – and more than half of digital reader revenue.

Adjusted operating profit was £3.1m compared to an adjusted operating loss of £14.6m in the prior year.


It hit record supporter numbers, but this is comprised of numerous products. At the end of March 2021 its total digital recurring support was at 961,000 – up 33% year-on-year. It added 236,000 in 2021.

This is comprised of 401,000 digital subs (which grew by 46%), recurring contributions at 560,000 (up 24%), and finally print subscriptions hit 120,000 (up 8%).

As one of the few main news providers with a donation button, in 2021 The Guardian saw 585,000 single contributions – up 83% year-on-year.

What The Guardian says

Guardian Media Group interim chief executive Keith Underwood said: “Outstanding journalism, commercial innovation and much hard work across the organization have delivered a strong set of results in a challenging year. This performance is testament to the dedication and expertise of our staff, and our strong and trusted relationship with readers.

“Having restructured the business, we are now in a position to invest in our journalism and the capabilities that will deepen reader relationships and drive reader revenues on a global basis.”

Guardian Media Group chair Neil Berkett added: “Despite both structural challenges and the significant effects of the pandemic, the group’s long-term attention to growing sustainable digital reader revenues, reshaping our organization and maintaining financial discipline mean we have delivered a positive set of results. The management team’s increased focus on investing in quality journalism and our digital capabilities means that the group is well positioned to grow and deliver on The Guardian’s mission.”

These are fitting results for the 200-year old title that marked the anniversary with an extensive marketing campaign. Rival Reach also announced its results today, showing promising green shoots in its advertising business.

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