Guardian embraces unique free content, membership model that works

By Shelley Seale


Austin, Texas, United States


The Guardian has found a paywall model that seems to be working well for them, said Richard Furness, managing director of consumer revenues and publishing. Furness discussed the history of The Guardian’s paywall model at the recent INMA Media Subscriptions Summit in Stockholm.

“What we’re trying to do, and what I think we’re doing successfully at the moment, is finding a model that doesn’t just play into that binary paywall or advertising model,” Furness said. “It was a more nuanced choice to make.”

That choice, and model, The Guardian has gone with is that of a relationship strategy with its audience. Furness said the company is going on its third year using this relationship model.

“What we’re doing at The Guardian is finding that different path and a different way.”

Discussions have taken place about whether this model is unique to The Guardian because of its ownership structure, though Furness doesn’t think that is the sole reason: “Certainly at The Guardian we have a successful reader revenue strategy. For us, that means not putting a barrier up. It means not putting a paywall up, which today I feel is quite a controversial thing to say.”

What a successful reader revenue strategy means for The Guardian is allowing everyone to have free, open access to the content, Furness said. The challenge with that is how to find different ways, and a variety of ways, to make that model profitable.

“So it’s a really interesting model we have — it’s not a paywall, it’s not just an advertising model. It’s a mixed model, and at the center of that is making sure that our content is free and available for everyone,” Furness concluded. “The experience is what people subscribe to rather than the content.”

About Shelley Seale

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