The Guardian nears 1 million recurring digital supporters as reader contributions surge

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Voluntary financial contributions to The Guardian’s free journalism have grown 43% during 2020. Record-breaking traffic to their coverage of the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, climate change and the US election has helped drive revenue.

The takeaways:
  • More than 900,000 people now pay either a digital subscription or a recurring contribution, up from 632,000 a year ago. In a post,  Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner said this worked out as a new supporter every two minutes in 2020.
  • This is in addition to more than 530,000 one-off contributions. Once print subscribers are included, readers over 180 countries supported the publisher financially over 1.5 million times throughout the year.
  • On November 4th following the US election, The Guardian recorded its highest ever day for digital traffic, reaching more than 190 million page views and 52.9 million unique users around the world in 24 hours.

The newspaper also saw an increase of 11% in subscriptions to its print products across the Guardian, The Observer and Guardian Weekly, which went some way to offsetting the effect of Covid-19 on newsstand sales.

Print under pressure: These numbers will be a relief to the publisher, who like many others, have been battling the decline of print for a number of years and a decimation of newsstands and advertising revenue last year thanks to COVID.

  • Guardian articles began featuring ever more prominent calls to action as the year went on, explaining how and why their work needed financial support.
  • “News is under threat, just when we need it most,” one of the messages read. “We need your support to help fill the gap.”
  • “We’d have been a lot worse off were it not for the hundreds of thousands of readers who answered our call,” Viner wrote.

Behind the scenes: The Guardian’s journalism is free to access, but there are a number of ways readers can financially support the publication.

  • The contribution model invites readers to give either a one-off donation or recurring subscription of an amount of their choice. There is no additional benefit; instead this is to “help us remain open and free of a paywall.”
  • As well as a print subscription, there is also a digital subscription offer, which gives access to an edition-based app, a Guardian Live app, and ad-free reading as well as occasional exclusive features for £11.99 a month. 
  • Finally, there is a Patron option, which range from £1,200 a year to a suggested £5,000 a year. Benefits include complimentary tickets to Live events, backstage tours, access to editorial conferences and supporter impact reports. 

Register for more: The Guardian has been starting to encourage readers to register to read content. They have emphasised this is not a step towards a paywall, but is aimed at getting to know their audience better, and to tailor messaging and advertising appropriately. 

  • “Strengthening our relationship with our readers, combined with award-winning journalism that the world needs right now, along with our huge reach globally is how we’ll attract more people to support the Guardian financially by the end of our 200th anniversary,” the publisher said in an interactive post.

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