I had my first letter printed by The Guardian in September 2000, 4 days after my 25th birthday. Talk about the ultimate present. It was in the Weekend magazine; it was a response to an on-going joke in the letters pages of the magazine and I guess, upon reading it again now, that you probably had to be there.
Through its sister paper, The Observer, The Guardian had been part of my life for years, as we had had The Observer delivered to our house every Sunday since I was a kid. Between the two papers, I had everything I needed – great articles, commentary that I generally agreed with (but which, when I didn’t, made me think), well thought out design and tastes, in terms of the types of art & music that it featured and favoured, that matched my own.
That letter was the first but not the last that I had printed in either The Guardian or Observer (seven and counting), and my fandom has been taken to even greater heights since I’ve featured in two articles (online only mind you.) I was, and probably still am, what many people would describe as a Guardianista, even if I haven’t always agreed with everything they’ve done.
So, when I recently realised that my subscription to The Guardian app is due to expire, you might think that I would have renewed it immediately. After all, I love the brand and like being able to get news from the UK. The whole time I was in Ireland, I still read both The Guardian & The Observer, often the print versions. And, even here in Sydney, the news site I probably check more than any other is guardian.co.uk.
And, importantly, I’m a strong believer in paying for content. It seems strange having to even say that; imagine someone having to explain, almost sheepishly, that they believed in paying for food before leaving a supermarket.
I’m not sure I’m going to renew it.
The paper is losing money like it’s going out of fashion, but doesn’t seem to be able to get its ship in order. The mobile app is, frankly, frustrating whereas the (free) mobile site, which has recently been redesigned, is really rather good. It’s almost like their belief in providing free online services* is such that they would rather go out of business than actually charge. Yes, they charge for the iPhone app, but 30% of that revenue goes to Apple, so it probably fits with their masochistic business strategy.
Why not go the way of the FT and create a paid for web-app? It could be as good as the current mobile site. but The Guardian would get to keep all the money. Instead they spend their time expanding their editorial operations into the US & Australia (I’m actually very much looking forward to meeting them when they arrive), whilst hemorrhaging money at home.
It doesn’t make any sense.
I probably will renew my subscription, almost as a sort of charity donation, now I can’t buy the papers any more. But I really wish that The Guardian would put as much effort into its business operations and strategy as it does into its journalism (worryingly, it seems that its business strategy at the moment might be based around bad journalism). Because unfortunately you really can’t have one without the other.
*The Rusbridger cross mentioned in that article (where everyone waits for the axis showing web revenue to cross, and take up the slack for, print revenue) is something I witnessed, though not with that name, at a previous employer. Here’s a free tip for anyone waiting for it. It won’t come soon enough for you, unless you charge for content.