Stephen Glover: Online gambling that could prove reckless

Media Studies: The Guardian as we know it in print form is being put on the back burner

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about The Guardian's parlous financial predicament. It seems my analysis is largely shared by its board. In announcing annual losses of £33m, the chief executive of Guardian Media Group, Andrew Miller, stated last week that "doing nothing was not an option" as he laid out a radical five-year plan.

How radical can scarcely be exaggerated. The Guardian as we know it in print form is being put on the back burner. Eventually it might disappear altogether, though Mr Miller did not say as much in a series of presentations to staff. But Alan Rusbridger, the paper's editor-in-chief, did foresee a time when The Guardian and Observer might spend 80 per cent of their focus and attention on digital.

The old business model is well and truly smashed. The Guardian and Observer have lost an enormous number of sales, and in print form can never be other than heavily loss-making with their existing overheads. According to Mr Miller last week, Guardian Media Group could run out of cash in three to five years if its business operations do not change, though it would be able to sell assets to generate more reserves.

So management is taking what can only be described as a gamble, which is to try to make the online business profitable. The plan envisages increasing the 50 million-odd "unique users" who at present visit guardian.co.uk to 90 million by 2016. Given the phenomenal growth of its online audience over recent years to the point where guardian.co.uk is the world's fifth most popular website, this may be realistic. But will it ever be profitable? Because of low advertising yields and, in most cases, the absence of any subscription revenue, there isn't a newspaper group which has yet made serious money out of online. The hope is that guardian.co.uk's increased audience will lead to a near doubling of revenue from £47m in the current financial year to £91m in 2016.

But it is only a projection. These are uncharted waters for Guardian Media Group, as they are for all publishers. In view of the challenge the company has set itself, it may seem odd that as things stand The Guardian and Observer and guardian.co.uk have no plans to reduce their enormous overall headcount of 1,500, of whom 630 are journalists.

The Huffington Post, a barely profitable newspaper which only publishers online, supports a staff a fraction of the size. If the Guardian/Observer are effectively turning themselves into digital-only newspapers, they should start off by adapting to existing commercial realities online, rather than those which they hope may exist in five years' time.

In effect they are jumping into the unknown, daringly (or recklessly?) rejecting the old newsprint form while continuing to employ many more people than are likely to be affordable in an online world. Not for the first time, a powerful editorial tail represented by Mr Rusbridger is wagging an ailing commercial dog.





Did Gove do the ungentlemanly thing?



The Daily Telegraph recently revealed what we knew but could not actually prove: that Ed Balls and Gordon Brown plotted to remove Tony Blair as Prime Minister. The paper also showed that, as Chancellor, Mr Brown ignored warnings from civil servants about profligate public spending.

These and other stories were based on a "cache" of documents and letters belonging to Mr Balls which had miraculously fallen into the Telegraph's hands. But how? When he stood down as Education Secretary in May 2010 Mr Balls apparently forgot that he had stashed away some private papers in a cupboard. In due course they were unearthed by his successor, Michael Gove, or someone working on his behalf, and found their way to the Telegraph. The gentlemanly thing might have been to return the documents to their rightful owner, but politics is not a gentlemanly occupation.

The interesting question is why the cache did not end up with The Times, Mr Gove's old employer of many years, rather than the Telegraph. Possibly tracks were being covered. More likely, perhaps, Mr Gove, or someone working on his behalf, wanted to do the Telegraph a favour that would not be forgotten. I shall be keeping a close eye on how the paper writes about the Education Secretary over the coming months.





Heff's cannon has left a vacuum



A columnist is only as good as his last column, and when he stands down the waters quickly close over. So, at least, I have sometimes been told. And yet the recent departure of Simon Heffer from The Daily Telegraph leaves a painful hole. The paper is different without him. Every week, while he was there, he would shove a cannon ball down his cannon, point the contraption in the direction of David Cameron, and fire.

Sometimes the aim was accurate, at other times the projectile would fall wide of the mark, possibly killing or maiming innocent bystanders, but in either event readers were treated to a lively show.

With Mr Heffer's departure, all hostilities between the Telegraph and No 10 have ceased. Instead there is a general love-in. Last week we had Ben Brogan lauding Mr Cameron for increasing British overseas aid and Peter Oborne writing about the Prime Minister's "astonishing triumph" in establishing himself. Fair enough, but where are the Tory sceptics? Charles Moore or Boris Johnson? Probably not. Oh Heff, the Telegraph hath need of thee at this hour!

s.glover@independent.co.uk

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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 Media

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Recruitment Genius: External Relations Executive

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An External Relations Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Project Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This established Digital Agency based in East ...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links