TROUBLE AT T'GUARDIAN
In September 2005 the Guardian was proudly trumpeting that its circulation was over 400,000 for the first time in two or three years, following its shift to the Berliner, small-size format.
Nearly a year and a half later official circulation figures, published today, reveal that the paper's sale has fallen to 364,491 - a drop of 10 per cent since the Berliner relaunch, leaving the paper barely 100,000 a head of the Independent, its far less well resourced rival.
The Guardian sunk £80m into the Berliner format, the brainchild of its editor Alan Rusbridger, and hopes were high that this would kickstart sales. Clearly it has failed and losses at the group are running at £50m a year.
Its internet operation, Guardianunlimited, is doing well in terms of traffic and audience but is still some way from breaking even and it is doubtless playing its part in chipping away at the paper's readership. A loyal buyer of the Guardian is in commercial terms worth about ten users of the website, so each Guardian buyer who deserts the paper for the net is costing the Guardian Media Group dear.
Little wonder that the Guardian has decided that drastic action is necessary, with redundancies threatened. This will be a big shock to Guardian journalists who, rather like civil servants, have put up with relatively poor pay in return for job security and perks such as a nine-day fortnight. The Guardian is pitching all this as a bold advance into the digital age, but it looks more like old-fashioned downsizing to me.