Guardian furloughs 100 staff and cuts management pay

The Guardian: owner GMG employs 1,300 people in the UK
The Guardian: owner GMG employs 1,300 people in the UK

Campaign understands that GMG's revenue outlook for first half of 2021 will be £20m lower than expected.

Guardian Media Group is furloughing about 100 UK staff and cutting its management team’s pay as it faces "huge financial challenges" caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The owner of The Guardian introduced the move today (Wednesday) among a string of measures to claw back costs. This includes the management team taking a 20% reduction in pay and a 30% cut in fees paid to board members over the next six months.

GMG is also deferring planned pay rises for UK staff, furloughing employees in departments where workloads have dropped, suspending ad sales commission payments for the first and second quarters, and launching a voluntary reduced-hours initiative.

There are no planned redundancies at this stage. GMG employs about 1,300 people in the UK and a further 150 across Australia and the US. 

Campaign understands that GMG’s revenue outlook for the first half of 2021 will be £20m lower than expected, but it has made £10m of future savings, including the cuts announced today.

Despite seeing record numbers of online readers and a rise in subscriptions, GMG is among the many media owners that have suffered, with many advertisers pulling spend or pausing campaigns as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

The Guardian’s unique browser numbers almost doubled in March, reaching 366 million compared with a record 191 million in February, according to the newspaper’s internal figures. It added that coronavirus content is accounting for roughly 70% of all page views.

News brands, however, are having a paricularly tough time as they fall victim to brands making use of tools that automatically block their advertising from appearing against content that uses terms such as coronavirus and Covid-19.

Earlier this month, Newsworks claimed that if the blacklisting of these terms continues, it could cost the industry £50m. At the time, Guardian News & Media commercial director Nick Hewat said that politics are a "benign" area to which blacklists have extended and that blacklists are costing news brands millions of pounds.

Last week, culture secretary Oliver Dowden called on brands to "prevent an irreversible decline in news publishing".

A GMG spokeswoman said: "With record digital traffic and reader engagement driving record levels of digital subscriptions and reader support over the past six weeks, The Guardian is a strong and trusted brand.

"While we are well-placed to weather difficulties thanks to the strategy implemented over the last four years, it is clear that we will need to adapt as we always have, in order to serve Guardian readers and meet the challenges and opportunities ahead."

Campaign wrote in August 2019 that 80% of GMG's ad revenue is derived from digital, according to the publisher's 2018 financial report. 

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