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Newsonomics: CEO Mark Thompson on offering more and more New York Times (and charging more for it)
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Sept. 23, 2019, 12:05 p.m.

On the heels of The New York Times’ “The Truth is Worth It” summer campaign, The Guardian has launched a marketing push under the banner of “Hope is power.” Both news organizations are now awash in subscriber/member contributions to keep their operations afloat and can now, apparently, be the advertisers themselves instead of the advertisees.

Though now majorly supported by readers, The Guardian knows it needs to spend money to earn more reader revenue. It’s the Guardian’s first major ad campaign since 2011, in the year of its first operating profit since 1998, as Josh Benton outlined here in May:

We’ve been writing here for a long time about the difficult transition newspapers are making (or not making) to digital. If you had to define a few key financial landmarks papers need to hit along the way, you might pick these three taken from Ken Doctor pieces early this decade:

Each of these would be the sort of accomplishment that justifies an officewide party, and The Guardian can now say it’s hit all three — only a few years removed from a seven-year stretch where it lost £227 million, or well over $300 million in Yankee bucks.

The main video ad in the campaign draws on this sense of hopelessness-turned-impact, in a clip that may both depress and then worry you about the bugs near your window:

Campaign, a UK media/marketing industry outlet (which is looking for its own members) had the story Monday. The commercial will air during The Great British Bake Off and news programs and of course is soon to be plastered on subway stations and social media. No financial details of the campaign’s cost were shared.

“It’s not an awareness campaign; we’re calling it an affinity campaign to inspire support and [reinforce] what The Guardian stands for today. It’s very much a collective message about standing with our readers,” marketing director Sonia Sudhakar told Campaign.

With frequent polite asks and no offers of swag, The Guardian brought in 800,000 members in a year and a half of new energy focused on its reader revenue initiative. Financial supporters now number more than one million and The Guardian is aiming for another million by 2022. (The New York Times, at 3.8 million digital subscriptions, has outlined a goal of 10 million subscriptions by 2025.)

(Hey, local outlets: Last month the Membership Puzzle Project published research on the pursuit of subscribers via paid acquisition, if you want to get more clarity on what spending money to make money on the local scale could look like.)

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