The Guardian Might Stop Being a Printed Paper

    Colin Morrison, writing at ‘Flashes & Flames’:

    The Guardian, which has arguably become the world’s most sophisticated digital news operation, may be contemplating an end to its printed newspapers. That may have been signalled by the recent decision to cut 180 jobs (or 12% of its UK workforce) as a result of Covid.
    But, tellingly, newsstand print sales, at £49.3m, were 50% down compared with 2016. Last year, print accounted for 42% of revenue (£94 million) and an estimated £75 million of production, distribution and marketing costs. So, the printed newspaper may last year have delivered almost £20m of real profit. But now Covid is pushing it into losses from which it may not be able to recover – without dramatic change.

    Interesting and unsurprising to learn that Saturday is (was?) its biggest day for print sales:

    Like most UK national newspapers, The Guardian has been highly profitable on Saturdays because of higher prices and sales volumes. Pre-Covid, The Guardian had been selling 100,000 copies at £2.20 on weeekdays. But, on a Saturday, it was selling 246,000 copies at £3.20 – and with more advertising revenue too.

    After our local newsagent stopped delivering the Saturday Guardian, we went out and bought it most weeks… until Covid and the lockdown. We haven’t bought it since, probably, March. But we do pay online, as supporters and subscribers.

    I don’t think I’d mind that much if it went digital-only, though it would be the end of an era. You’d think they could keep just the Saturday edition, but:

    The management may already have concluded that any plan to print a newspaper only on certain days (including the weekend) will not be viable. Much of the experience (especially of the Newhouse family’s Advance newspaper group in the US) seems to show that reducing the daily frequency seldom works: once the daily habit is broken, newspaper buyers quickly seem to stop buying the paper altogether. A consolation print option could be the expansion of the 101-year-old news magazine Guardian Weekly which claims readers in more than 170 countries.

    I’d guess they’ll maybe keep The Observer going for a while: Sunday papers have their own distinct identities.

    The contrast with digital could not be greater. The Guardian has 160 million monthly uniques across the world, some 25% in the UK. More striking, though, are those digital editions in North America and Australia/New Zealand which, respectively, have advertising revenue of £25 million and £11 million. These are now strong operations, evidenced by Australia where The Guardian is the fourth largest online news service with an audience of 11.6 million (more than 50% of the adult population) – ahead of News Corp’s national daily, The Australian.

    Good to know it’s beating Murdoch on his home turf.

    Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab describes The Guardian as “a weird newspaper” because: it has nearly two-thirds of its readers coming from outside its own country; started in one city and moved to another; and is owned by a trust that mandates it promotes liberal journalism in Britain and elsewhere.

    “A weird newspaper”: works for me.

    The End of Newspaper Delivery

    We’ve been getting The Guardian delivered on Saturdays for several years. Not any other days, because who has time to read paper newspapers except at the weekend? But it’s great to get up and have the paper there to read over breakfast.

    Sadly, a couple of weeks back we got a note with our delivery:

    Sorry, we are stopping deliveries from the 1st of October.

    Not too surprising, I suppose. It’s hard to imagine that enough people get deliveries to make it worth their time and effort. And it’s not like they’re going out of business: they’ll still be selling papers, just not delivering them.

    So I suppose we’ll have to go out and buy the paper on Saturday mornings, like it’s the — actually, not like it’s the past at all. I’d bet that there have been newspaper deliveries as long as there have been newspapers.

    Still, it’s not like they’ve stopped everywhere. I expect there are still a few places out there that still deliver. But what next? Will our milkman stop delivering?1

    In this golden age of home deliveries, remember that we depend on people being willing and able.

    1. Yes, we get milk delivered three times a week, since you ask. 

    Boycott News International for life? I already did.

    There's a campaign on Facebook encouraging people to boycott News International papers for life. I'm way ahead of them. I don't touch anything from the Murdoch empire.[^fn1]

    I haven’t ever since the days of the Tories. Err, the old days of the Tories, I mean: the eighties; Thatcher; all that stuff we thought we’d done away with in 1997.

    My reasons are much the same as those I wrote about in my fourth ever blog entry. Then, I was talking about the Saatchis, and how their name was anathema to me, because of the fact that they had helped the Tories get in all through the Eighties.

    I have long held a similar despite for the Murdoch papers; enhanced by the tabloid ones being such trivial pedlars of rubbish and prurience.1

    My kids occasionally complain about the fact that we don’t have Sky, but there are so many channels on Freeview (and Friends and My Name Is Earl are on E4 so often) that I don’t think they really mind.

    And I must confess that, until the now-aborted bid to take 100% ownership of Sky, I thought Murdoch did own all of it. Turns out we could have watched 60% of it for all those years.

    No matter how negatively I feel towards the organisation and its organs, though, I would never have expected the degree of criminality that they were apparently practising; just as no matter how negatively I might sometimes have felt about the police, I wouldn’t have expected such casual corruption from them. In the end I think we’ll understand that the police taking money from journalists is the worst thing about all this.

    And yet on some level I can’t say I’m that surprised; disappointed, certainly, but not really surprised.

    It’s all unravelling now, though, and we watch with joy and bated breath.

    1. Though all tabloids are like that, to be fair. ↩︎

    World of the Newspaper

    I’m sure we all use the word “disgusted” too easily. But I felt physically sick when I first heard about the News of the World (or someone working on its behalf) allegedly ‘hacking’ Milly Dowler’s phone.

    It’s only a few days since her murderer was convicted, and now this comes down. It’s hard to believe that anyone, in any occupation can sink so low. But of course, it gets worse: they seem to have done it to the families of other murdered girls, too.

    Oh, obviously they’re not as low as the bampots who actually did the murders. But not by much.

    I’m a profound believer in free speech, and know that a free press is essential to a functioning democracy. But shit like this works against those noble ideals. It’s not exercising our freedoms to ensure that we keep them; it’s abusing them, and so making it more likely that they’ll be curtailed.

    Because the backlash is coming, News Corp; already advertisers are starting to withdraw from your spiteful rag. (And I hope that some good can come of this: that the public will finally see what hideous, mean-spirited rags tabloid papers are, and start to boycott them.) But bigger than that is that fact there is now bound to be an inquiry.

    And it seems to me that there is a strong chance that such an inquiry will recommend introducing some kind of statutory regulation of newspapers. And then we’d all suffer.