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The Guardian's pivot to paid has a unique twist: There's no paywall. Instead, The Guardian relies on reader contributions -- a model gaining believers in news organizations caught between making their coronavirus coverage free of charge and facing ad shortfalls at the same time.

"There's absolutely no doubt that we're going to see a boost to our reader revenue during this period," said Guardian U.S. and Australia CEO Evelyn Webster on this week's episode of the Digiday Podcast. "We are going to see our advertising hit hard. I do not know how hard and how deep. I don't think any of us do. [But] even in the most dire scenario that I have looked at, the Guardian would still be a profitable business in America. So are we well positioned to continue our journey to grow? Yes. And I feel very confident about that."

Reader contributions from American readers at about 40-45% of the US operation's income. Thanks to this evolving revenue scheme and a serious cost-cutting effort, in 2019 the Guardian as a whole made its first operating profit in 20 years.

The Guardian recorded its best month ever in terms of web traffic.

"There is absolutely no doubt that that is what's driving the current trend," Webster said in reference to the pandemic. "We hit 114 million browsers in March, and that was an increase [of] 80 to 90% on the prior month and about 160% on the prior year."

Webster talked about the difference between British and American contributor behavior, why the U.S. can use the perspective of a British newspaper and how the Guardian's ownership structure (it's owned by a trust) keeps its coverage impartial.


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