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February 12, 2024

Guardian forecasting £39m deficit as ad revenue falls 16%

Digital reader revenue came in 4% below expectations.

By Bron Maher

Advertising revenue at Guardian News and Media was down £9m (16%) in the nine months to 31 December, the publisher has told staff.

The ad downturn accounted for £12m of a £17m revenue shortfall compared to budget in the first three quarters of the Guardian and Observer publisher’s financial year. Membership revenue from readers was £3m behind budget and other revenue types are £2m behind budget.

GNM brought in £192m in revenue in the nine months, down £10m or 5% compared to the same period in 2022.

The publisher told staff in a quarterly update, seen by Press Gazette, that it anticipated a cash outflow of approximately £39m in the 2023/24 financial year (which runs to the end of March), versus £17m in the previous year, due to the revenue decline and cost of investment in technology.

How far below budget is The Guardian’s advertising revenue?

GNM had budgeted for £60m in advertising revenue between 1 April and 31 December, but ultimately only generated £48m, some £12m (20%) below expectations.

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Digital reader revenues came in at £64m in the nine months to the end of December, a £3m increase on the same period in the 2022/23 financial year but £3m (4%) below budget.

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The Guardian does not have a paywall, instead asking readers to contribute to keep its journalism free.

Print reader revenue – i.e. newspaper sales – brought in £50m, exactly on budget but £2m (3%) down on the year before. Print circulations are steadily declining at almost all publishers.

Several of GNM’s costs decreased or grew more slowly than expected over the period, with both staff and non-staff costs coming in at £4m below budget.

However, The Sunday Times reported that GNM is now “braced for cuts” and that Guardian editor Katharine Viner told staff they “should worry but not panic”.

The company said in a comment to the newspaper that “we currently have no plans for significant headcount reductions” but “we have an obligation to manage the organisation as efficiently as possible”.

Last week The New York Times reported total advertising revenue decline of 8.4% year-on-year in the fourth quarter of 2023 in a set of otherwise healthy results. Fox Corp, the parent company of Fox News, saw a year-on-year decline in adcvertising of 20% in the same period, while sister business News Corp saw advertising revenue stay effectively level.

In November GNM unveiled a new contextual advertising approach that means it can target relevant advertising at readers who reject third-party cookies.

The Guardian last made major cutbacks in 2020 when it announced plans to cut 180 jobs (70 in editorial) as a result of the downturn in revenue caused by the pandemic.

A Guardian spokesperson said: “Our early diversification towards reader revenue means that we have made significant strategic progress and we expect it will generate close to £88m by Q4 2024. However, the downturn in ad revenues affecting all media organisations, from News UK to the New York Times, demonstrates why we must continue to adapt to changing market conditions and focus on delivering our strategy even more quickly.”

[Read more: Why ad-funded journalism-for-all faces fight for survival in 2024]

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Email pged@pressgazette.co.uk to point out mistakes, provide story tips or send in a letter for publication on our "Letters Page" blog

Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
  • Business owner/co-owner
  • CEO
  • COO
  • CFO
  • CTO
  • Chairperson
  • Non-Exec Director
  • Other C-Suite
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  • President/Partner
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  • Group or Senior Manager
  • Head of Department/Function
  • Manager
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  • Other
Visit our privacy Policy for more information about our services, how Progressive Media Investments may use, process and share your personal data, including information on your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications.
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