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May 1, 2019updated 30 Sep 2022 7:43am

Guardian group meets target to break even at end of three-year financial turnaround plan

By Charlotte Tobitt

Guardian News and Media, publisher of the Guardian and Observer titles, has announced today that it has broken even after a three-year strategy to turn its finances around, edging back into the black.

GNM said it has broken even at an EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) operating level, with operating profit of £0.8m for the year to the end of March.

Its operating losses for 2017/2018 were £19m, and £57m in 2015/16.

The company also met its target to reduce costs by 20 per cent over three years by April this year. It reported costs of £222m before exceptional items, down from £235m in 2017/18.

GNM said its revenues have grown each of the last three years, up 3 per cent to £223m in the past year.

David Pemsel, chief executive of Guardian Media Group of which GNM is the core news business, said: “Over the last three years we have made a huge amount of progress, and I’m exceptionally proud of how far we’ve come.

“Achieving these results is testament to the absolute commitment and ingenuity of everyone within the organisation. We are very grateful for the support of our readers, advertisers and partners who believe in the value of high-quality media.

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“GMG is now a more reader-funded, more digital, more international business. Although the significant turbulence in the global media sector shows no sign of abating any time soon, we have developed a set of core strengths which will help to ensure the Guardian’s ongoing independence and financial sustainability for the long term.”

GNM said £123m, or 55 per cent of its revenues, are now digital, with “good growth” in digital advertising, digital subscriptions and reader contributions. This is up from £108.6m last year.

Its digital revenues overtook print for the first time last year.

Print advertising now makes up less than 8 per cent of GNM revenues, although “good growth” in digital advertising saw overall ad revenues grow by 3 per cent this year.

The publisher also heralded record numbers of readers, saying March 2019 was a record month with 163m unique browsers and 1.35bn page views.

The number of regular readers to the Guardian’s platforms has increased by 40 per cent in the past three years, according to the publisher.

The Guardian’s goal of deepening reader relations and increasing reader revenues was a crucial part of its three-year strategy.

It says it now has 365,000 recurring financial contributors and members, while its digital subscriptions stand at 190,000 and print subscriptions across the Guardian, Observer and Guardian Weekly at a record total of 110,000.

This makes a total of more than 655,000 regular financial contributors, while another 300,000 people made one-off payments in the past year.

GNM editor-in-chief Katharine Viner 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.”

The Guardian has said it has a new three-year strategy to reach 2m supporters who financially contribute to the Guardian through regular or one-off payments by 2022.

It is also targeting financial sustainability by keeping cash requirements in line with the expected long-term annual returns of GMG owner the Scott Trust Endowment Fund of £25-30m.

Picture: Graeme Robertson

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