The Guardian newspaper’s recent charity-like fundraising appeal for members and donors has increased the number of paying readers to 800,000.
In a year and a half it has grown from 12,000 to 300,000 members. Editor Katharine Viner said last month that The Guardian had 500,000 people paying monthly or as print/digital subscribers, and had attracted 300,000 one-off donations.
According to NiemanLab, this means that “by the end of 2016, reader revenues — that’s memberships, subscriptions, newsstand sales, and one-time contributions — comprised more of the Guardian’s revenue than advertising dollars did.”
The campaign has focused on asking Guardian readers to support the paper for the quality of its journalism and for its independence. Adverts on the website and in the printed paper have highlighted its investigative journalism achievements, in particular its role in exposing the Panama Papers in April 2016.
The campaign has included a sense of urgency for support, highlighting the divisive national and global politics of the past two years against a backdrop of Brexit and President Trump.
The fundraising appeal has invited subscriptions, one-off donations and regular donations. The language and style has been very similar to charity campaigns.
Adverts on the website include a variety of written calls to action – with no images. Usually one or two points are highlighted in yellow to stand out, very like a traditional charity direct mail appeal.
Options for support
The Guardian is inviting readers to join as:
- supporters for £5 per month with ticket access to events
- partners for £15 per month. This includes tickets to Guardian Live events or Guardian-published books.
- patrons for £60 per month, including access to “exclusive, behind-the-scenes” events.
The appeal for this kind of reader support was chosen because it had been decided specifically not to charge for access behind a paywall, an approach taken by other newspapers such as The Times and The Daily Telegraph.
Katharine Viner said: “We haven’t put up a paywall. Instead, we want to remain a strong, progressive force that is open for all.”
Equally, The Guardian was facing an insurmountable challenge of increasing digital advertising income.
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