Guardian Media Group (GMG), the publisher of the Guardian and The Observer, made a pre-tax loss of £68.7 million for the year ended 3 April 2016.
The results reflect what chief executive David Pemsel described as a “volatile advertising market”, which over the last 12 months has seen the majority of publishers grapple with increased competition from the likes of Google and Facebook.
Group digital revenues were down by almost £2 million to £81.9 million over the period; however Pemsel said that GMG is on track to cut overall costs by 20% over the next three years (around £53 million), with the aim of breaking even at an EBITDA level by 2018/19.
The publisher has already saved £17 million by cutting more than 260 jobs through a voluntary redundancy programme.
“Faced with a volatile advertising market, we have taken decisive action to control our cost base, reduce headcount, and grow our revenues around membership, branded content, video and data,” Pemsel said.
“We are on track to deliver a 20% reduction in our cost base over the next three years, while our unique ownership structure will allow us to continue to invest in the world-class journalism that these numbers clearly show our international audiences want.”
Pemsel, alongside editor-in-chief Katharine Viner, launched GMG’s three-year cost saving plan at the beginning of 2016, which set out a number of editorial, commercial and membership goals.
As part of the plan – and as an alternative to a paywall – Guardian readers are invited to support the publication by signing up to its membership scheme – with tiered packages ranging from £5 per month as a ‘supporter’ to £60 per month as a ‘patron’.
The Guardian reports that more than 50,000 people have now paid to sign up.
Speaking at this year’s annual ISBA lunch, Viner said: “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.
“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.”
Overall group revenue was down from £217.5 million in 2015 to £209.5 million.