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July 16, 2020

Guardian Saturday edition set to bear brunt of cost cuts despite being biggest sale of the week

By Charlotte Tobitt

The Guardian’s Saturday edition could lose several of its much-loved sections under cost-saving proposals which will see 70 journalism jobs cut.

The Weekend, Review, The Guide, and Travel sections are all set for closure as part of “significant changes” proposed for the Saturday offering.

The change would leave only the Sport, food magazine Feast and opinion and analysis Journal supplements remaining.

Guardian editor-in-chief Katharine Viner said in a memo to staff there would be discussions over proposals for a “new Saturday package” later in the process.

A Guardian spokesperson later told Press Gazette there are plans in the making for a “new and exciting” Saturday supplement that will cover features, culture, books and lifestyle journalism.

Review is the Guardian’s literary and culture supplement, Weekend is features-centric and The Guide highlights the Guardian’s picks of what to watch, see and listen to each week.

Saturday is by far the biggest day of the week for print sales of the Guardian, with a circulation 130% higher than on weekdays.

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In March, the last set of ABC figures unaffected by the Covid-19 lockdown, the Guardian’s Monday to Friday edition had an average circulation of 106,734 including 50,161 paid single copies.

The Guardian Saturday edition had an average circulation of 246,094 including 190,482 single copies.

The Observer’s circulation was 156,174.

In June, the Saturday edition sold 147% more than the weekday circulation (220,980 vs 89,347).

In addition Viner told staff the plan was to reduce “some aspects” of sport and lifestyle journalism.

“We are also proposing a reorganisation in the ways we produce our journalism so that our editorial processes are truly digital-first,” she added.

Newspaper March 2020 ABC total (pre-Covid) June 2020 ABC total (post-Covid)
Guardian Mon-Fri 106,734 89,347
Guardian Saturday 246,094 220,980
Observer 156,174 143,913

Staff at Guardian Media Group were told that 180 jobs, 70 in editorial, will be cut in response to the pandemic taking £25m off its forecast revenues for the next year.

Viner said in her memo: “These are understandably anxious times for everyone and there is no getting away from that.

“We have to make some difficult choices now in order to promote a more sustainable future for the Guardian and Observer and respond to the rapid changes taking place in our industry.

“In thinking about where to look for savings in editorial, we have been guided by three things: our purpose; our digital strategy; and our response to how Covid-19 is changing everything.

“The ongoing global crisis is accelerating changes that had already begun, such as the shift to sustainability and the drive for meaning in how people live, work and spend their money.

“In this new world we will deliver the journalism that best serves our readers and their interests – and we will reduce our spending in other areas.

“This matters even more in an era where the majority of our funding comes directly from our readers and relies less on advertising.

“In print, our proposals include making some changes to paginations and some significant changes to our Saturday sections, including the closure of Weekend, Review, The Guide and travel.”

A Guardian News and Media spokesperson said: “In order to ensure the Guardian is financially sustainable and delivers the journalism that best serves our readers and their interests, we are having to make some difficult decisions.”

They added: “We are planning a new and exciting Saturday supplement which will deliver a range of high-quality features, culture, books and lifestyle journalism. We look forward to sharing the plans for our new print package with readers in the coming months.”

Advertising, print, physical events and Guardian Jobs are the hardest-hit areas of GMG since the pandemic began.

In an earlier memo, Viner and chief executive Annette Thomas told staff the company faced “unsustainable annual losses in future years unless we take decisive action”.

Last month The Guardian closed its previously successful subscription dating service Soulmates.

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