Guardian 'seriously discussing' end to print edition

The publisher of the Guardian and Observer newspapers is close to axing the print editions of the newspapers, despite the hopes of its editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger to keep them running for several years.

By Katherine Rushton, Media, telecoms and technology editor1:46PM BST 17 Oct 2012

Senior figures at Guardian News & Media are seriously discussing the move to an entirely online operation, it has been claimed, leaving Mr Rusbridger increasingly isolated.

The longstanding Guardian chief wants to develop the Guardian’s digital-only US operation before pulling the plug on the print edition, in the hope that it will provide a useful blueprint for the online business in Britain.

However, trustees of the Scott Trust, GNM’s ultimate owner, fear it does not have enough cash on its books to sustain the newspapers for that long, according to More About Advertising, the website run by former Marketing Week editor Stephen Foster.

The Guardian publisher has spent the last few years battling to stem losses of £44m a year. However, it has been slow to make savings and any money that it has clawed back has been spent on expanding its US and online operations.

The investments helped to fuel a 16pc increase in digital revenues to £45.7m last year, but this was not enough to balance GNM’s operating losses which widened from £31.1m.

Guardian Media Group, GNM's parent company which also owns stakes in Autotrader's publisher, Trader Media Group, and Top Right Group, the magazine and events company formerly known as Emap, fared even worse. Its operating losses more than doubled to £129.1m after nearly £55m of write-offs.

Meanwhile, the company has been forced to steadily shrink the Guardian newspaper, getting rid of some of its flagship supplements. GNM has also pledged to axe up to 100 of its 650 editorial staff, but has struggled to find enough people willing to volunteer for its pay-off package.

Last year, GNM also looked at closing the £80m printing plant it opened seven years ago, and moving its Berliner printing presses to Trinity Mirror’s Watford plant.

However, it now seems more likely to stop running the presses altogether.

Earlier this year, Adam Freeman, the Guardian’s outgoing commercial chief, admitted that the Guardian is on a “mission” to be able to stand alone as a digital-only publication, and was mixing its stable of traditional journalists with enthusiastic citizens who would work for free.

Last week, Andrew Miller, chief executive of GMG, told a conference that GNM was trying to "optimise the economics of the paper," something that would involve cutting costs and "format changes".

A GNM spokesman denied that it intends to stop printing newspapers, saying they would “remain the foundations of our organisation for many years to come”. The newspapers generate three quarters of GNM’s revenues but do not turn a profit.


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