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July 25, 2023updated 26 Jul 2023 10:45am

Guardian grows revenue but reports £21m loss

Total revenues were up 3% in the year to 31 March 2023.

By Charlotte Tobitt

Guardian Media Group has maintained a four-year run of revenue growth, with turnover up by 3% to £264.4m in the year to March 2023.

But it has swung into the red and reported a cash outflow of £21m versus a surplus of £6.7m in the year to March 2022. It said this was due to investment in its editorial teams and products.

This contributed to a £50m fall in the value of Scott Trust endowment fund from £1.29bn in March 2022 to £1.24bn as of 31 March 2023. This fund was amassed through the sale of a stake in Trader Media Group and other investments and underwrites any losses made by GMG.

The revenue growth can be put down to The Guardian’s international markets, with revenues outside the UK up by 17% to £93.2m in the financial year to 31 March 2023.

International revenues now make up 35% of the total at GMG.

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In the UK alone, however, revenues were down by 3% to £171.2m.

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GMG said investment has continually taken place in the US and Australia, and more than 50% of The Guardian’s digital reader revenues now come from outside the UK.

Total digital reader revenues, which include digital subscriptions and recurring contributions, grew by 8% to £81.9m and now make up 31% of total revenues. The Guardian surpassed one million paying digital readers at the end of 2021.

Digital now makes up 70% of total revenues, which helps as print reader revenues (from newsstand sales and print subscriptions) declined by 4% to £68.7m.

Advertising, across both print and digital, was down 3% to £71.3m, and other revenues (including content licensing, jobs listings, events and philanthropic) grew by 23% to £42.5m.

GMG had a statutory operating loss for the year of £22.1m, and an adjusted loss of £21.3m. The difference between them reflects depreciation, amortisation and interest.

This compares to an adjusted operating profit of £11.7m the year before. However GMG does not need to make a profit as the Scott Trust's remit is to protect The Guardian's journalism in perpetuity and can therefore provide it with cash.

Guardian Media Group chair Charles Gurassa said: "Thanks to exceptional work from everyone in the organisation, The Guardian has continued to grow, strengthening its position as a leading global news publisher. It is thanks to the support of our readers that we can reach the broadest possible audiences to have access to independent, high quality journalism that is open to all.

"While the economic outlook in the UK remains challenging, we will continue to prioritise investments in journalism and our organisational capabilities to offer readers ever richer and deeper coverage, and enable more people to experience and enjoy the Guardian."

Other than the blip of 2020, when news publishers around the world saw a dip due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, GMG has seen revenue rise every year since 2016. The 2023 revenue total is GMG's highest since 2010.

Guardian Media Group reports £21m cash outflow

In the year to March 2022, GMG reported a positive cash flow of £6.7m put down to its revenue growth and "careful cost management".

This year it had an adjusted net operating cash outflow of £21m - which it attributed to "continued planned investment in editorial teams, newsletters, podcasts and digital capabilities, including continued investment in Guardian US and Guardian Australia, to drive impact and revenue growth globally".

On the same day as the figures were published, The Guardian also revealed it is creating seven editorial jobs in the UK, US, Caribbean, Africa and South America to improve its coverage of race issues and underrepresented communities. It is also launching a new digital European edition this autumn with the creation of 11 new editorial roles.

Even before these additions wage costs have gone up from £131m to £152.6m in a year due to the creation of other jobs: the monthly average number of employees rose from 1,489 in 2022 to 1,626.

GMG chief executive Anna Bateson said: "In a difficult economic climate we have continued to invest in quality journalism and in our digital business capabilities to advance this strategy which has brought revenue growth and a continued rise in digital reader revenues from across the globe.

"Despite challenges across the global media industry we will continue to invest and build a platform for long term success."

The group's strategic report published alongside the accounts referred to a three-year investment plan.

"The Group is exposed to external uncertainties including those arising from economic conditions. These will continue to impact our revenues and costs; ongoing competition for subscription revenues; and pressures on future advertising revenues arising from challenging macroeconomic conditions and platform policy changes," it said.

"The Group is mitigating these risks through placing journalism and reader relationships at the heart of its business strategy. The strategy includes realigning its operating model to reflect a reader-centric strategy, increased investment in journalism and product offerings, development of industry leading data capabilities and continued development of deep, personalised and trusted relationships with our readers.

"A three year investment plan has been agreed by the board which supports the following strategic pillars; knowing our audience; accelerating reader revenues; growing internationally; realising greater value from our readers; and transforming our technology, capabilities and culture."

This year GMG's ultimate parent company Scott Trust Limited has begun the process of transferring the endowment fund from GMG to a new subsidiary, Scott Trust Endowment Limited, saying this would "better reflect the separate management of the operating business and the investment activities".

Top-paid leaders at The Guardian

A directors' remuneration report published alongside the accounts set out details of staff pay rises and the top-paid leaders at The Guardian.

Chief executive Anna Bateson, who took up the role on 19 September last year, received £630,000 - the same as her predecessor.

Chief financial and operating officer Keith Underwood's salary increased by 6% to £470,000 from 1 November 2022 as his remit was expanded to include leading the publishing and UK jobs teams.

Editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, whose salary is set by the Scott Trust rather than the people and remuneration committee like the other executive directors as part of measures for ensuring editorial independence, was on £509,850. In April this year, a year after her previous 3% pay rise, her salary increased by 3.5%.

For other staff, the 2023 annual salary review, effective from 1 April, led to increases of between 3.5% and 8%, with the higher increases going to lower-paid staff. They also received a non-consolidated, one-off payment of £2,000.

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