News & Opinion

Kath Viner: Reader revenues have been "incredibly effective"

Speaking to Amol Rajan on Radio 4's Media Show this week, the Guardian's editor-in-chief discussed the title's mission for its journalism, reader revenues, Facebook and the changing shape of the print newspaper.

Following October's news that the Guardian more than doubled its regular paying supporter base in 12 months, Viner described the reinvention of the newsbrand's business model to focus on reader revenues as "incredibly effective". She continued: "I think it caught the mood of the times and people really want to support the mission of the Guardian."

"We wanted to put membership right at the heart of journalism, so we got a senior journalist to run it, to make sure that it was rooted in what we did every day and really build on readers' relationships with our journalism", she explained.

While digital revenues are "dramatically increasing... up 15% last year", Viner also highlighted the continued role of print as part of the Guardian's offering. Announcing that the relaunch of the newspaper in tabloid form will be on 15 January 2018, she said of the change: "The Berliner was a particular shape for a particular time... I think [the switch to tabloid] fits this moment."

Expanding on print's role in a digital era, Viner said: "The role of a tangible, physical object in a digital world is really interesting to think about... maybe it's more explanatory, maybe it's more keepable, maybe it's more visual, beautiful."

Switching focus to the online sphere, she questioned the impact of Facebook's newsfeed which "homogenises all content – whether it's good journalism from transparently funded sources or fake news or propaganda or something invented – it all looks the same on your phone... We're seeing the effects of it all around, particularly in America".

As she approaches her third year as editor-in-chief of the Guardian, Viner also discussed how her editorship is different to that of her predecessor, Alan Rusbridger: "I think it's important to build on the strengths of the past... the digital innovation and being really digitally ahead of the curve... and also the great legacy of investigative journalism."

Both remain key focuses of the newsbrand, with Viner referencing recent investigations including the Paradise Papers, the Panama Papers, the football child abuse scandal, Sports Direct and revelations about chicken farming. On top of this, she’s set out to establish "what’s the mission for our journalism?... I think that seems particularly pertinent now when there are so many social, political, cultural shocks and changes happening all the time".

In answer to this, Viner believes that the Guardian's role is: "Doing something meaningful in the light of so much noise and clickbait. It's diversifying; It’s collaborating with others; it's doing ideas, not just critiquing the status quo; holding power to account; making sure facts are sacred and reporting on people as well as power."

According to Viner, the Guardian is "a paper of the left in the broadest sense" and when it comes to politics, the title supports "principles and ideas and policies, rather than individuals or one party". She went on to highlight the importance of having columnists that both do and don't support the Labour Party: "That’s really important for our pluralism."

You can listen to the full interview here.

by Jessie Sampson 07/12/17

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