Two months ago, the Guardian achieved what many in the industry thought would be impossible: they recorded a small operating profit, following 20 years of multi-million pound losses. This was aided by record online traffic, reduced costs, and financial contributions from readers, putting the business in a sustainable position.
Now that seemingly impossible goal has been reached, the challenge for the publisher is keeping the focus and momentum going to propel them forward to their next goal: 2 million supporters by 2022.
The Media Voices Podcast sat down with the Guardian’s Chief Revenue Officer Hamish Nicklin this week to talk through the newspaper’s journey to profit, and how it plans to keep the momentum going in its plans for the next three years.
Overcoming internal doubts
When the Guardian first set out its plans for a dramatic turnaround three years ago, there was a lot of scepticism from industry professionals who couldn’t see how the newspaper could reduce its losses that quickly, particularly given the challenges other publishers were also facing around increasing revenues and profitability.
Nicklin, who joined the Guardian in 2016 from AOL, wasn’t alone in sharing concerns about the plans at the time, especially some of the targets that were being brought in.
“On the whole, there were pockets who entirely believed that it was possible, and there were others who genuinely had some concerns and doubts, because some of the numbers that we were putting against things like our reader revenues were pretty hefty,” he said.
“And the reality was, over three years, we didn’t necessarily have a detailed financial plan, but we did have a framework, and that framework was made up of some assumptions in the outer years around what we’d be getting from some of these numbers.