Guardian News & Media, publisher of the Guardian, has revealed plans to become a "digital-first" organisation, placing open journalism on the web at the heart of its strategy ahead of declining print sales and "beyond the newspaper".
Alan Rusbridger, editor-in-chief of GNM, and Andrew Miller, chief executive of parent company Guardian Media Group, today outlined to staff a major transformation programme in response to “inexorable trends” in media consumption.
Rusbridger told employees that GNM would “move beyond the newspaper, shifting focus, effort and investment towards digital, because that is our future”.
Miller said GNM was “embarking on a major transformation that will see us change from a print-based organisation to one that is digital-first in philosophy and practice”.
The company said the new strategy was a response to changes affecting the entire media sector, which has seen rapid growth in digital audiences but also financial challenges for newspaper publishers due to declining print circulation and advertising revenues.
It said that while print remained critical to GNM, the strategy would involve changes to its newspapers over time and investment in digital initiatives such as a new US operation based in New York and new mobile offerings.
The new strategy is aimed at further digital growth, and ensuring the Guardian’s long-term financial sustainability, the company said.
Rusbridger said: “Every newspaper is on a journey into some kind of digital future. That doesn’t mean getting out of print, but it does require a greater focus of attention, imagination and resource on the various forms that digital future is likely to take.
“The Guardian has consistently led the way on digital innovation and is currently showing year on year growth of 40 per cent. We are expanding into America and continuing to pioneer what we call open journalism – editorial content which is collaborative, linked into and networked with the rest of the web.
“We will also be changing the printed Monday to Friday newspaper to take account of changing patterns of readership and advertising. Half our readers now read the paper in the evening: they get their breaking news from our website or on mobile.
“By becoming a digital-first organisation we’re taking the next natural step, one which we believe all newspapers will eventually have to take.”
Miller said the new strategy would target growth in digital audiences, revenues and engagement, while maximising revenues in print. He said there would be a move to a direct model with greater numbers of print subscribers, which would also allow GNM to launch new cross-media content offerings.
He added that resources would be moved from print and reinvested in digital growth areas, and that there would also be investment in new brand marketing.
Miller said the strategy was designed “to place the Guardian on a sustainable financial footing”. He said: “The opportunities presented by the growth of digital media are immense. The Guardian’s journalism has never been more widely read. However, the same forces driving opportunity in digital are creating challenges for newspaper publishers across the developed world, including GNM.
“Circulation and advertising revenues in print continue to fall throughout the sector as readers and advertisers embrace new technologies and digital platforms, and this is not a trend that’s about to go into reverse.
“We are going to become a digital-first organisation, and are at the beginning of a process of transformation to achieve that. The quality of our journalism, our long-term outlook, the assets in GMG’s portfolio, our unique ownership structure, our progressive approach to digital media and our fantastic people mean we can do this from a position of strength.
“Innovation of this kind is in the best traditions of the Scott Trust and will help us to fulfil our mission of securing the independence of the Guardian in perpetuity.”
According to MediaGuardian, Rusbridger indicated that there would be a redesign of the Guardian's Monday to Friday editions later this year and the paper would focus less on breaking news and instead aim to emulate "Newsnight not News at Ten".
Unaudited results for the year ending 31 March showed that revenues at Guardian News & Media, the immediate parent of the newspapers and guardian.co.uk, fell to £198m last year compared with £221m the year before, a fall in revenues that reflected a sharp fall in classified advertising. Recruitment advertising has fallen by £41m in the past four years.
MediaGuardian added: "On an underlying basis, as measured by earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, the Guardian and Observer lost £22m, but the cash loss, a more accurate measure of financial performance, was larger at £33m. That is similar to last year's level, when the newspapers made an operating loss of £34.4m."
- It's worth having another look at Malcolm Coles' Guardian graph.