The Guardian has received financial support from more than 1 million people, it was reported this morning.
Announced by Katharine Viner, Editor-in-Chief of Guardian News & Media as she opened the main day of conference sessions at the Society of Editors conference in Manchester, she said that over half a million people now subscribe to The Guardian every month.
She said: “Since March 2016 I’m pleased to announce that the Guardian has received financial support from more than one million people.
“Over half a million of them continue to support us every month – through either a subscription, membership, or a recurring contribution.
The decision to open the organisation to financial contributions was made, in large part she said, in her first weeks as editor after being presented with a dramatic set of commercial figures.
She said: “Month by month, print advertising was collapsing, with new digital ad spend moving almost entirely to Facebook and Google.
“We realised that we were heading for a very big operating loss.
As well as tackling costs she said, the organisation had to find new ways to bring in revenue.
She added: “The obvious answer was to go to our readers. Last month, we had 176m browsers around the world, with more than two-thirds of them outside of Britain, and many of them have a special relationship with the Guardian. We have more than 1bn page views every month, and meaningful reach like this has built an engaged and meaningful audience too.”
Since asking for donations in the wake of the publication of the Panama Papers in April 2016, they had received 600,000 one-off contributions from 170 countries she said.
“More than half of our one-off contributions so far are from the US, and contributions are one of the reasons that the Guardian’s American and Australian editions are now on a sound financial footing” she said.
“This entirely new revenue stream of monthly and one-off contributions is now a crucial part of our plan to get the Guardian to break even by next April. And we’re absolutely on track to do that” she added.
Contributions is just one part of the new revenue strategy to sustain The Guardian’s journalism she said. Focus had also been placed on enhancing the digital app and providing trusted content.
She said: “We now make it easy for our audience to support Guardian journalism in a number of ways, while still being free if you can’t afford to pay.
“We have enhanced the Guardian’s premium digital app, which you subscribe to, and print subscriptions are at a record high despite declining newsstand sales.”
The success of The Guardian’s contributions showed the value placed on the product even though it was free she said.
“In fact, many readers have told us they give us money specifically because they want the Guardian to stay free, open and accessible to all, so that progressive journalism can have the widest possible impact” she added.
“Readers tell us that they want to ensure that more people are more informed – that this is fundamental to the healthy functioning of democracies”, she said.
Read Katharine Viner’s speech in full here.