David Pemsel, a former ITV marketer, joined Guardian Media Group (GMG) in 2011 and has been CEO since June 2015. He took over at a time when the business was losing almost £60m a year (EBITDA). Together with editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, Pemsel kicked off a three-year business turnaround strategy in 2016, with the aim of making the Guardian sustainable and break even by April 2019. In May 2019, the business announced an operating profit for the first time in two decades.
Several elements contributed to this: The Guardian’s ‘relationship strategy’, launched in 2016, aims to create deeper reader relationships to drive revenue without putting up a paywall. GMG also reduced costs by 20% and grew ad revenue in a highly volatile market.
The support of readers and investing in talented staff have also been key. Announcing the results of its turnaround strategy, Pemsel said: “GMG is now a more reader-funded, more digital, more international business. Although the significant turbulence in the global media sector shows no sign of abating any time soon, we have developed a set of core strengths which will help to ensure the Guardian’s ongoing independence and financial sustainability for the long term.”
Today the Guardian has 655,000 monthly paying supporters, including subscribers, recurring contributors and members, and an additional 300,000 one-off contributors in the last year. Revenue from readers now accounts for over half of revenue.
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