GNM, the Group’s core business, enjoyed a year of significant achievement in 2008/09.
The company undertook a major structural reorganisation, expanded its multimedia coverage, acquired a new US business, introduced integrated editorial working and, with the growth of guardian.co.uk’s international audience, made further progress towards the Guardian’s long-term ambition to become the world’s leading liberal voice.
These achievements took place against a background of vigorous competition and well-documented economic crisis.
Despite its successes, like many other media companies GNM experienced the toughest trading conditions seen for many years, resulting in an increase in operating loss. Operating loss before exceptional items was £36.8 million (2008 £26.4 million) on turnover of £253.6 million (2008 £261.9 million).
Given the combination of cyclical and structural issues applying downward pressure to revenues across the newspaper industry, GNM is now in the process of reducing its cost base significantly – while continuing to invest in journalism and web development.
GNM further enhanced its reputation for quality journalism during the year. The Guardian broke one of the biggest stories of 2008 with a scoop from Chancellor Alistair Darling when he admitted the economy was heading for its “worst crisis for 60 years”.
Central to GNM’s journalistic year was its adoption of a multimedia approach to the reporting of global events such as the US election and the Olympics.
Significant resource and effort were placed into covering the US election campaign trail, with columnists and reporters producing compelling blogs, video and articles leading up to election night itself.
Guardian.co.uk was rewarded with record interest. On US election night its coverage – which incorporated slideshows, audio, video, blogging and data journalism as well as traditional reporting – drew its highest ever levels of traffic over a 24-hour period.
GNM’s multimedia credentials were recognised when it beat traditional UK broadcasters to win Best News Programme in Broadcast magazine’s annual awards.
Behind the scenes, the year’s major event was GNM’s relocation from four addresses in Farringdon to a new home in Kings Place, in December 2008.
The move involved four years of careful planning and was a landmark moment in the history of the organisation. It is testament to the hard work of many that it went so smoothly, culminating in the first edition of the Guardian being produced from Kings Place on Monday 15 December 2008.
From this point onwards GNM was able to implement fully its plans for integrated working between print and online teams. GNM’s collective efforts resulted in record-breaking success when, a few weeks later, to coincide with its tenth birthday, guardian.co.uk celebrated almost 30 million unique users. Guardian.co.uk is now not only the UK’s largest newspaper website, but also one of the biggest in the world.
The site has benefited from the development of a new technical platform, which is also enabling GNM to build on its long-standing commitment to openness. With the launch of the Open Platform initiative GNM became the first UK newspaper publisher to open up its database to partners, enabling them to take content and statistics for free and build their own applications. Such partnerships represent a potential new revenue model for GNM, which reserves the right to make advertising revenue at the point of distribution of its content.
Largely in response to a double-digit increase in paper costs GNM raised the cover prices of the Guardian and Observer during the year. At the same time the company introduced a new subscription scheme offering discounts to loyal readers. Both newspapers maintained their share of copy sales in the quality market.
While other papers retreat from the world, reducing the number of international correspondents, the Guardian remains committed to serious, original international reporting – exemplified in 2008/09 by the strength of its coverage of events from America to China, Iraq to Burma and Zimbabwe to Afghanistan.
The US is the first staging post in the Guardian’s push to become the world’s leading liberal voice. In July 2008 GNM acquired the US-based business-to-business company ContentNext Media, which covers digital media and the entertainment and technology sectors, and publishes the influential paidContent.org website. Caroline Little, the former chief executive officer and publisher of washingtonpost.com, was appointed to the position of chief executive officer North America to lead GNM’s growth in the US.
GNM’s journalistic success over the year was rewarded with a host of awards including – for the fourth time in five years – best newspaper site for guardian.co.uk at the Webbys, and an Amnesty UK Media Award for the Guardian’s East Africa correspondent Xan Rice. The Guardian picked up four British Press Awards, including website of the year for the second year running. The Observer won best newspaper design at the 2008 Newspaper Awards, and best print and web news story at the 2008 Foreign Press Association Awards.
GNM’s aim is to emerge from the economic downturn a leaner and stronger organisation. Leaner due to a bottom-up reappraisal of the cost base to ensure it is affordable. Stronger because it will continue to invest in its journalism and in maintaining its market-leading positions.
With its trademark creativity, talent and innovation it remains at the forefront of quality publishing in the UK and globally.