The Guardian – inside the legend that turned 200!

The Guardian – inside the legend that turned 200!

One of the world’s leading English speaking newspapers is right now celebrating its 200th anniversary – The Guardian. And it’s a newspaper with a unique business idea: It gently asks you to pay! If you don’t, you cαn anyway continue reading. Talking about it’s modest age, the paper says “Few things make it to this ripe old age. We’re older than most countries, almost all political parties and pretty much every animal on the planet.”

Though the oldest English speaking newspaper still published is Northern Ireland’s The News Letter that has been published since 1737.

The Guardian started as weekly Manchester Guardian 200 years ago and while print circulation continues to decline and is now abit more than100,000 copies per day, The Guardian claims it is the sixth biggest news website in the world with 317 million website visits in March.


In a time with discussions about how to pay for quality journalism, The Guardian sticks out. Many colleague publications put up paywalls around their digital editions saying readers of the digital version must subscribe just as they have always done for the print newspaper.

The Guardian took another approach saying our site will be an open asset to all but we will ask readers to pay – no forced payment required, just gently asking readers to subscribe or donate a contribution.

Hearing about the unusual business model, economists sighed and forecasted problems. Today editor-in-chief Katharine Viner says the newspapers has more than 1million paying readers and receive support from readers in more than 180 countries, helping to safeguard the Guardian’s independent journalism.  


“And we do it in an open model, that means some readers pay so that quality journalism is available to all who might want to read it.  That approach was widely mocked when we launched it five years ago – but it’s been very successful, and we see many imitations in others’ models around the world now”, she told The Press Gazette.

“The Guardian saw its biggest year for digital reader revenues in 2020, gaining 268,000 new digital subscriptions and recurring contributions, an increase of 43%. We also received more than 530,000 single contributions from readers who believe in the Guardian’s values and purpose. Including print subscribers and single contributions, people supported the Guardian financially more than 1.5m times last year.”


Asked by the for how much longer the paper will exist in print, Viner said:

“Many of our most loyal readers are in print, but obviously we devote the overwhelming majority of our time, energy and resources to digital. A brilliant digital offering can absolutely be compatible with a brilliant print edition, but they are very different audiences: you need to prioritise digital while maintaining the excellence of print.”

“Although newsstand sales fell last year, our print subscriptions actually rose slightly – so there is plenty of life remaining in print for some time.”

Key years:

5 May 1821 – First issue of Manchester Guardian as a weekly published on Saturdays.

1855 – The paper begins publishing daily.

May 1921 – Celebrates the first 100 years.

1959 – The paper drops Manchester from its name, becoming The Guardian.

1976 – The Guardian relocates to London.

2015 – Katharine Viner is appointed editor-in-chief of The Guardian succeeding Alan Rusbridger who was editor-in-chief for 25 years.

2021  Celebrates 200 years.

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