So the Guardian lost £69 million, wiping a huge chunk of its Scott Trust cash cushion in the process. Print ad revenue is down, and so is online ad revenue. The whole enterprise seems to be circling the drain, and would have disappeared but for its £800m nest egg.
It’s a shame, because the UK media needs a voice independent of corporate/billionaire interests – one that’s stronger than the mealy-mouthed BBC – which doesn’t provide in-depth analysis and doesn’t prioritise the truth in the same way that the Guardian could.
But the Guardian doesn’t really act as an independent voice, and that’s its problem. Ideally, it would make enough money to cover its running costs and not have to dip into its capital funds; ideally, it would be supported by people like me, who would happily pay £5 a month to maintain its autonomy. But I won’t, because it isn’t.
Strike one: of course, its trust fund is invested in the money markets and depends on the continuing survival of the current economic model to maintain its value. So it would be against the Guardian’s own interests to argue for anything other than the survival of the current economic model.
Strike two: the whole point of the Trust is the keep the Guardian running along the ‘the same lines and in the same spirit as heretofore.’ In other words, meaningful change is not in the Guardian’s DNA. A lot of Guardian readers mistakenly think that it is a left-wing newspaper, but it’s not. It’s a Liberal newspaper, and socialist ideas generally give it the heebs.
Strike three: strikes one and two are never more starkly illustrated than in the Guardian’s lack of support for Jeremy Corbyn. In fact, in not supporting Corbyn, the Guardian aligns itself with The Dalies Mail, Telegraph, Express, Times, and Sun etc. Why would I, with my vaguely socialist beliefs and natural inclination to support Corbyn’s ideas about workers’ rights and economic reform, want to pay £5 a month to support a newspaper that followed the same line as all the other newspapers? Where is the meaningful difference here?
Strike four: talking of meaningful difference, let’s turn to the rest of its content. In its attempt to maintain its free, ad-supported digital model, the Guardian has gone down the route of publishing articles that attract social media links and clicks. This means that it tends to devolve to the same crap that all the other media outlets publish. This means endless recaps/blogs about trendy television programmes; articles with clickbait-style headlines (key phrases like “How [whatever] is [whatever]” or headlines that ask questions or [x] Reasons [x] will [x]). It also means too many columnists adopting contrarian opinions, providing the kind of ‘hot take’ that gives the internet a bad name. And having seen the damage created by contrarian journalists-turned-politicians (Johnson and Gove), I think, frankly, that this country has had enough of contrarian journalists.
There’s way too much content on the Guardian web site, and most of it is the same old shite you find everywhere else. It was a mistake for any newspaper to give away its content for free, a decision driven by Fear of Missing Out and misplaced concerns about the BBC. By all means, make AP-style news reports free, but keep all the analysis and opinion for the print edition, or stick it behind a members-only paywall. Also, charge memberships for people who want to post comments on articles. Another idea: update the home page just once a day for non-paying visitors, and keep all the breaking and rolling news and regular updates for paying customers only. Any article in any section of the web site leaves you in a grumpy mood as soon as you accidentally read just one of the comments beneath it. And that’s a problem because, man, do I not want to belong to that particular club. Guardian readers appear to be the nastiest people in the world. Why would I pay £5 a month to be lumped in with that lot?
Whatever: without providing a real alternative to the so-called mainstream, without giving me the alternative voice I crave, there’s no point to the Guardian.