The Guardian hits 1m ‘digital subscribers’ thanks to international growth

The Guardian hits 1m paying digital readers, including 500,000 outside the UK

The Guardian has become the first British news organisation to declare reaching 1m paying digital readers.

The publisher today announced that, as of the end of November, it had 419,541 digital subscriptions and 580,494 recurring contributions, for a total of 1,000,035.

In the 12 months to November, the Guardian said it had received 476,006 one-off, non-recurring contributions. This figure, as well as its 114,251 print subscriptions, do not count towards the 1m total.

The news group said that more than half of its “digital recurring support base” is now based outside of the UK. Its largest non-British markets are the US, Australia and the rest of Europe.

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The Guardian becomes the world’s sixth English-language news publisher to announce reaching 1m paying online readers, after the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Gannett and the Athletic.

Before today’s announcement, the Guardian was ranked 10th in Press Gazette’s 100k Club ranking of news organisations by digital subscriptions.

It has now overtaken the Economist and the Financial Times, which at last count had 964,518 and 987,000 digital subscriptions respectively. The Economist’s figure is from June 2021 and the FT’s from September, meaning they may have each surpassed 1m by now, though neither has made an announcement.

The Guardian is now on a par with Substack, the newsletter platform that said its writers had reached 1m subscribers in November, and the Weather Channel.

Unlike other large publishers in the 100k Club, the Guardian has a free-to-access website. Digital subscribers pay for extra apps, while recurring contributors choose to donate to “protect the Guardian’s independence” and help it continue to deliver “quality journalism that’s open for everyone around the world”.

The Guardian invites readers to support its journalism by either making a single contribution, or a recurring contribution (monthly or annual). It also offers more expensive patron packages – costing between £1,200 and £5,000 a year – which come with added benefits, including the opportunity to attend editorial meetings. According to a recent Press Gazette ranking, the Guardian has the biggest membership base in the world of news publishing.

In the UK, a Guardian digital subscription costs £11.99 a month of £119 a year after introductory offers. Subscribers are given an ad-free reading experience, access to an editions app, premium features on the main Guardian app, offline reading capabilities and access to interactive crosswords.

The Guardian’s announcement comes days after it was named News Provider of the Year at Press Gazette’s British Journalism Awards.

The publisher said that investigations – the Pegasus Project and Pandora Papers — its 200th anniversary, its climate pledge and Covid-19 coverage have all been “significant drivers of reader support in 2021”.

“Six years since we first asked readers to contribute financially to support Guardian journalism, the strategy has been brilliantly successful,” said editor-in-chief Katharine Viner. “It is a tribute to the deep connection we have with readers that so many have chosen to support us without the imposition of a paywall.

“Thank you to Guardian readers around the world for helping to keep our journalism open and available to all, not just those who can afford it.”

The Guardian is London-headquartered but has expanded its international presence in recent years, most notably in the US and Australia, where it has separately-run websites and offices.

It said today that international revenues grew by 26% in 2020/21 and now account for 30% of its total turnover.

The Guardian says it has the fifth most popular news website in Australia, and that US traffic now accounts for 30% of its global audience.

Keith Underwood, the interim chief executive of Guardian Media Group, said: “Looking ahead, we plan to continue to transform the business with investment to sustainably expand our global reach, readership and revenue.”

Paul Kanareck, the chief customer and commercial officer of Guardian Media Group, said: “The challenge ahead is to continue to engage and retain even more readers from all over the world as we reach ever greater scale.  We will continue to invest in order to evolve and expand our supporter offering, to keep pace with the changing needs and habits of our global community of readers.”

Photo credit: Graeme Robertson

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Author: William Turvill

William is Press Gazette's North America Editor.