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In the second of three instalments, Andrew Miller, Guardian Media Group CEO, discusses how it is extending reach and monetising digital content.
As The Guardian looks to offset the losses of the print edition of the newspaper, Guardian Media Group (GMG) CEO Andrew Miller talked to new media age about monetising digital content, introducing the paid-for model on iPad and doubling its revenues by 2015.
What is the most sustainable strategy when it comes to monetising digital content?
Number one on the agenda is to grow our reach and audience in the digital environment. Digital creates opportunities through the platforms available, and it also creates global opportunities that weren’t there before.
Our music site has a very strong following in Japan, for example. We’d never have achieved that if we had we not been digital and open. It gives us a great way of engaging with the audience and allows us to provide them with premium advertising. So the fundamental premise is the advertising model will be built on a multiplatform approach with a very engaged audience in a global market.
What is your view on implementing a paywall for the core website?
It’s often presented as a very binary decision – you’re either behind a paywall or you’re not. We are not saying we’ll never implement a paywall but in the current environment, we think it’s wrong because it should be about growing reach and audience.
It’s horses for courses. It’s about designing what’s right for your business. We will continually monitor it, but I absolutely believe that cutting off your core website will hurt your business in the medium term for a short-term gain.
The Guardian iPad edition is in fact behind a quasi paywall, as is the Kindle edition (pictured). It’s about defining where people will pay for content. On iPad, people will pay for content if it is design led and if it has an enhanced feel about it, but on a Facebook platform, I think it’s highly unlikely people would pay for content.
How easy was it to make the transition to a paid-for model on the iPad?
We offered it as a free trial to begin with and now charge for it. This was very easy to do technically and was also a very easy and important decision to make because it is a premium product and it is enhancing the user experience.
We were the first to charge what, at the time, seemed a high amount of money for mobile and that’s been very successful and is a model that has been replicated by many since. I hope what we’ve done on iPad sets the right kind of benchmark too.
What impact did making the iPad app paid-for have on subscriptions?
We expected subscriptions to fall back somewhat when we introduced the fee. We modelled for that. We have targets though and we’re on track to meet those targets.
What have you learnt from making content available on mobile and iPad?
The way technology is evolving and people are interacting with it is fascinating. It is happening much faster than I expected.
It is also interesting to see that it complements rather than substitutes the overall offering. People are consuming The Guardian on their mobile, then on their iPad, then on their desktop and then maybe looking through the paper in the evening, so it cements people into the brand in so many different ways.
How do you plan to promote The Guardian’s digital offering?
We’re going to be doing a marketing campaign soon that talks about the brand, what The Guardian stands for and re-emphasises our digital credentials.
How on course are you to hit your target of doubling revenues by 2015?
We’re eight months into our digital-first strategy and we’re hitting our financial targets. Our digital revenues this year will be just over £40m and we’re seeing very strong growth.
On the digital side of things, we’re well on track. The challenge remains the newspaper side, because the two are equally important and getting the cost base and the revenues of the newspaper right is as critical a part of the overall plan as the digital side.
At the moment, we’ve got the right balance for transformation but obviously things can change very quickly in this space.