The Guardian is conducting a broad review of its costs, according to The Telegraph and redundancies (including editorial) are expected within weeks.
The Guardian is also reportedly considering abandoning plans to open a large events space opposite its London offices amid news that it’s heading for annual losses of more than £40m.
I was at The Guardian HQ just before Christmas and, as with every visit, was reminded of its unique response to declining advertising revenue in the form of sponsored content and a focus on running training courses (Guardian Masterclasses) at its Kings Place site – which feels like a university/newsroom hybrid.
The news site increasingly works with brands that sponsor content subjects areas. Naturally, the subject areas are relevant to the sponsors but they have no control over editorial. For example, e.on sponsors a regular column on ‘efficiency’, which is a core message of the brand, but the organisation had absolutely no editorial input whatsoever in the article I wrote recently for the section.
Unlike publications that have chosen to go behind paywalls, The Guardian is trying something different to address the industry-wide problem of declining advertising revenue, for which I can only applaud. It’s tough out there.
It has been my experience that the newspaper remains committed to free and impartial journalism but, in a world of sponsored content and commercial interests, its approach is not without challenges. I have been told of one incident where a journalist was commissioned to write a piece of content for one of The Guardian’s sponsored columns and, having no limitations imposed on them (and not even knowing the piece was sponsored) went off and focused on the sponsor’s competitor. This put The Guardian in a tricky situation.
The article was published but (understandably) not in the sponsor’s section. This seems like a perfectly good resolution to this specific challenge but is also a reminder of the inherent issues that present themselves when an outside party is involved.
Currently The Guardian’s physical newspaper remains its main source of profit. I for one hope the new chief exec and new editor figure out a way to turn the paper’s fortunes around without compromising the paper or news site’s fundamental editorial integrity, which has seemingly been kept firmly intact so far.