How the Guardian has brought internet users around to the idea of paying for news sites | Life

Nearly half of the one million people who pay subscriptions for the Guardian's online content reside outside the UK. —Picture via ETX Studio
Nearly half of the one million people who pay subscriptions for the Guardian’s online content reside outside the UK. —Picture via ETX Studio

LONDON, Dec 21 — The Guardian recently passed the symbolic milestone of one million subscribers who regularly pay to read its articles. This is a particularly important step in the development of the British daily, which is one of the few in the media landscape not to have a paywall.

At the end of November, the Guardian reported that more than one million readers pay to read its online articles, with 419,541 digital subscriptions and 580,494 recurring contributions from supporters in 180 countries worldwide.

Unlike many media outlets, the Guardian has not opted for a paid model for its news site. However, it encourages readers to support its journalistic approach by making donations, whether regular or occasional. “The Guardian’s unique ownership model means the publisher is not controlled by a billionaire owner, or a group of shareholders demanding financial returns — any profits made go directly towards producing quality, independent journalism,” the newspaper explains in a press release.

An increasingly international readership

Another notable fact is that nearly half of the one million people who have digital subscriptions to the Guardian’s online content reside outside the UK. Most of them live in the United States, Australia or the European Union. The phenomenon is such that the publication’s international revenues have increased by 26 per cent during the years 2020-21, and now represent more than 30 per cent of its total revenue.

These encouraging figures are driven by two international editions of the Guardian, launched in the early 2010s — one for the United States and the other for Australia. The latter has since become the fifth most visited news site in the Oceanian country, with a monthly audience of over 7 million people. The readership of the Guardian’s American edition represents one third of the publication’s global audience.

“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,” said Paul Kanareck, chief customer and commercial officer, Guardian Media Group.

Encouraging readers to open their wallets

While many internet users have become accustomed to reading online news stories for free, the media are doubling down on initiatives to encourage readers to pay to do so. Some opt for a paywall, with access to no free articles or only to a limited number of page views, while others favor the freemium model, based on free content and other content reserved for subscribers.

According to the Reuters Institute, more and more media companies are concerned about the financial health of the sector, which relies, in large part, on a free model financed by advertising. “Advertising revenues increasingly go to Google, Facebook, and a few other large digital platforms which have further disrupted a business already challenged by the move to digital, and while some news organizations still generate significant offline and online advertising revenues, the share of advertising that goes to news media is declining,” notes the organisation in its Digital News Report 2021.

Some publications, such as the Guardian, manage to stand out in this ecosystem, and prove that internet users can get used to the idea of paying for access to quality journalism. — ETX Studio


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