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Katharine Viner: 'The Guardian's reader funding model is working. It's inspiring'

The Guardian’s editor-in-chief reflects on the state of media today and explains how the support of 1 million readers has enabled us to report and investigate the most important stories of our time

Katharine Viner discusses the Guardian’s purpose with Anushka Asthana at the newspaper’s offices in London, November 2017.
Katharine Viner discusses the Guardian’s purpose with Anushka Asthana at the newspaper’s offices in London, November 2017. Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

Three and a half years ago, when I took over as editor-in-chief, we were faced with the urgent challenge of how to make the Guardian sustainable.

The situation looked bleak across the media. Print advertising was in steep decline, and digital advertising growth was going almost entirely to Google and Facebook. News organisations everywhere were searching for answers to the challenge that they were being read more than ever before, but with fewer ways to cover costs. Month by month, more and more news outlets went behind a paywall.

We realised we had to find a new way to fund Guardian journalism. The obvious answer was to go to you, our readers – at that time we had 150 million, and you have always had a special relationship with the Guardian, valuing our editorial independence, our commitment to investigative reporting, and our progressive viewpoint rooted in the facts.

We knew we wanted all of our journalism to remain global, free and accessible for our readers – and not restrict it only to those who could afford to pay for it. We wanted to give people the opportunity to contribute financially, in ways that worked for them, meaning that we could provide our readers – regardless of where they live, how much they earn or how they like to get their news – a way to support us that also tied in deeply with the liberal and progressive ethos on which the Guardian was founded.

When we asked for your support, we weren’t sure whether it would work. Both friends and competitors were deeply sceptical for a long time, but you, our readers listened and responded. It was inspiring how many of you from more than 180 countries wanted to play a role in supporting the Guardian financially.

This support has meant so much, and helps protect our editorial independence, allowing our journalists the freedom to report and investigate important stories of our time.

Your support enables us to hold technology companies to account by exposing the Cambridge Analytica data scandal. Without you, it would be much harder to do this.

It is your support that means we can focus on the unfolding climate crisis impacting communities and the living planet, and commit to reporting on the environment: from the threat to public lands in the US to the drought in Australia.

Guardian readers’ support also means we can fight for justice for the Windrush generation in the UK, and hold the home secretary to account for the hostile environment policy.

To be able to announce today that we have received financial support from more than 1 million readers around the world in the last three years is such a significant step. This model of being funded by our readers through voluntary contributions, subscriptions to the Guardian, the Observer and Guardian Weekly, membership or as part of our patrons programme is working.

This means that within just three years, the Guardian is on a path to being sustainable. We hope to break even by April 2019. It has not been easy and we still have a long way to go – we need you to continue to support us financially, and we need more of our readers to take that step if they can. We continue to face financial challenges, but we are determined to find new ways to make meaningful journalism thrive – and with your help it will.

We are living in dangerous times when dark ideologies flourish, and it’s no surprise that people feel anxious and confused. I know it can sometimes be tempting to turn away from news coverage. But I’m sure you feel, as I do, that we have to understand the world if we’re going to have a chance of making it better for everyone.

That is what Guardian journalism is trying to do: to give you the facts so that, through clarity, we can make sense of what is happening; and to inspire you, through ideas and imagination, to find an alternative. Thank you to those who have supported us financially so far. We hope that today many more of you will consider offering us one-off or ongoing support, with a contribution or a subscription. Together, through clarity and imagination, we can make space for hope.

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Summary | 1 Annotations
The situation looked bleak across the media. Print advertising was in steep decline, and digital advertising growth was going almost entirely to Google and Facebook.
2018/11/22 02:57