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Guardian editor: "People ask me wherever I go how they can give me money"

06 Jul 2016  |  David Pidgeon 
Guardian editor: "People ask me wherever I go how they can give me money"

The Guardian, it seems, remains committed to its policy of delivering open and free online journalism, and - still insisting it has no plans for a paywall for now - says it is having success in taking donations.

Katharine Viner, the new-ish editor-in-chief, used the Guardian's spike in traffic following the EU vote to plead with readers to cough up if they like what they get for free.

"We experimented by appealing to Guardian readers who value our Brexit coverage to help fund our journalism - either through a monthly or one-off payment," she said to leading advertising folk during the annual ISBA lunch on Tuesday.

"The experiment has proved really successful....we dipped our toes in these waters because people ask me wherever I go how they can give me money for all the Guardian journalism they read, watch and interact with. People have wanted to contribute to the funding of the Guardian's journalism for years. We gave them that chance."

On the Friday after the EU referendum, more than 17 million people visited the Guardian's website, viewing 77 million pages - a record for the platform.

On the weekend after the results, print circulation for the Saturday Guardian was up by over 80,000, while The Observer was up by 60,000.

One of the Guardian's current strategies is to invite loyal readers to become 'members' with packages ranging from £5 per month as a 'supporter' to £60 per month as a 'patron'.

"For now, I'd far rather ask people to contribute money to help fund our journalism than demand they pay by putting up a paywall," Viner said.

"I'm not theologically opposed to putting up a paywall - but I believe it would be better if we at least explore an alternative route first and keep Guardian journalism accessible to as many people as possible."

Despite the referendum traffic spike, the Guardian is still suffering declining print revenues and slower-than-expected growth in digital revenues no longer able to sustain outgoings. Publisher Guardian News & Media unveiled ambitious cost reduction plans earlier this year that will look to shave off more than £53 million from its current £268 million annual budget and break even by 2018/19.

As part of those plans, Viner, who replaced Alan Rusbridger in June 2015 to become the first female editor-in-chief of the Guardian, said that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the quality of digital advertising.



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