The Guardian's future... by the paper's guardian Andrew Miller

Andrew Miller has presided over a £200m loss at the media group over the past six years, but that’s the cost of global expansion, he tells Ian Burrell

Guardian News & Media has lost nearly £200m in the past six years as it pursues its ambition of being the “world’s leading liberal voice”.

The Guardian’s editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, has expressed the wish to “cut our way out” of this perilous financial environment by aggressively expanding into overseas markets. Yet The Guardian’s plans are challenged by Britain’s most famous international media brand, the BBC, a traditional editorial ally but a fierce rival when it comes to overseas advertising revenues (which the Corporation may earn from its global output).

Andrew Miller, chief executive of parent Guardian Media Group, which spans The Guardian and The Observer newspapers, the guardian.com website and a portfolio that includes GMG Property Services  and large stakes in  the car-classifieds company Trader Media Group and events company Top Right Group, sounds exasperated. “The BBC is a frustrating competitor for us,” he says in an interview with The Independent. “It’s like a very good friend and has the great traits you love, but then several things really annoy you about them. I get frustrated that the BBC is the biggest state-subsidised Internet [operation] in the world. It is a global competitor for us in those different market places…to the advertising revenues that we go for.”

The least the BBC could do, he argues, is to give a leg up to media companies from back home – like The Guardian. Mr Miller believes the BBC should be prepared to do joint advertising deals with his company in foreign markets.  “The one thing the BBC could do more for UK brands and businesses is to partner with them outside the UK – given that the UK is subsidising the build out of the Internet for the BBC,” he says.

GMG already enjoys advantages over some of its commercial media rivals. Ownership by the Scott Trust means it does not have to answer to shareholders. The group has a cash and investment fund of £254m. Those other assets such as its 50 per cent stake in Trader Media Group and a 33 per cent share in Top Right are security for the loss-making news business.

Mr Miller has already sold GMG’s radio business last year for £70m, partly over further frustration with the BBC’s “disruption” of the market. “Because of the enshrined nature of the BBC’s local radio I took the view that we should be divesting,” he says.

Two years ago, as he committed GMG to a “digital-first strategy”, Mr Miller warned staff the newspaper’s losses were so great it could run out of money in “three to five years”. The latest losses of £31m for the year to the end of March were an improvement on the £44m of the previous 12 months and he took succour from a 28.9 per cent rise in digital revenues.

But lately he has had to rethink his plans, after a stabilising in daily print circulation at 199,000. “The paper has confounded us,” he says, adding that “there are no plans to close the newspaper”.

At the same time, Mr Miller is focusing closely on the success of younger news services, such as the entertainment-led  BuzzFeed, youth brand Vice and business-based Quartz, which he collectively defines as “Wave Two” of a process that began with “Wave One” of newspapers putting content online. The Guardian website has more than 78 million monthly users worldwide, around one-third in America. Mr Miller concedes that attracting advertising dollars is a much more difficult task in a very conservative market.

The international audience is critical to The Guardian’s survival. “The financial metrics around digital mean that there isn’t enough scale in the UK to survive at the moment – maybe in time it will change,” he says. Having set up a digital news operation in Australia in May (followed by the Daily Mail this week), he has his sights on India, which has “huge potential”.

But rather than thinking of geographical territories, Mr Miller and Mr Rusbridger have been discussing the “themes” which will give The Guardian international growth. Asked for examples, the chief executive cites environmental issues, a strong political voice and investigative journalism. The paper’s coverage of National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden has raised its global profile.

The audience for these themes are the world’s “progressives”, Mr Miller says. He is against the idea of a hard digital paywall (such as that used by The Times) and considers a “freemium” soft paywall (as used by The Daily Telegraph) to be “the worst loyalty scheme in the world” because regular users are charged.

His own preference is a “membership”, with users signed up to have “deeper engagement” with the paper. Mr Miller also wants members to be “participating in little events” which are Guardian-branded.

The paper already uses King’s Place, its HQ in London’s Kings Cross, to support various cultural events. Earlier this year it opened a tech-based London café called #guardiancoffee, which attracted some scorn but Mr Miller says it will live beyond its six-month trial, “probably for several years”.

This week the paper also opened the Guardian Green Room in the Rough Trade record store in New York to showcase its commitment to music. Mr Miller is very keen and more coffee shops may follow. “Physical manifestation of The Guardian is something we are actively exploring,” he says.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power