Guardian Australia has turned a profit and is on a sustainable business footing, five years after its launch.
Financial results for 2017-18 released on Tuesday show the organisation making an operating profit of $700,000.
Under the Guardian’s business model all profits made are reinvested in journalism.
The Australian edition of the global Guardian was founded in 2013 under the leadership of Katharine Viner, who is now editor-in-chief of Guardian News & Media.
Now edited by Lenore Taylor, the independent online news site employs 80 staff and has news bureaus in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane.
Two years after launching reader contributions, the site has 65,000 paying Australian readers who value its public interest journalism, including reporting on politics, the environment, asylum policy and Indigenous issues.
Taylor said everyone involved within Guardian Australia had worked hard to create “a new independent source of quality Australian news in a media market that’s becoming ever more concentrated”.
“We’re proud Australian readers are enjoying and valuing what we do,” she said.
The managing director of Guardian Australia, Dan Stinton, said while other media companies had put up a paywall the Guardian wanted its journalism to be “open and available to all, in order for it to have the greatest impact possible”.
“Clearly our readers understand the importance of this – we have 65,000 readers who have made some form of financial contribution to Guardian Australia, and those funds go directly towards producing quality, truly independent journalism,” Stinton said.
The membership program was launched in July 2016 and now accounts for 36% of the local website’s revenue, and is up 145% year-on-year. Advertising revenue, including sponsored content produced by Guardian Labs, accounts for the remaining 64%.
Stinton said reader support was vital and the company would not have been able to break even without it.
“Advertising remains an important revenue stream and is performing well but its future is far less certain due to the increasing dominance of Google and Facebook,” Stinton said. “We will continue to rely on the generosity of readers to grow and support our Australian journalism.”
The site’s parent company, Guardian Media Group, has recapitalised Guardian Australia, enabling it to repay the startup loan from the Wotif.com founder and philanthropist Graeme Wood.
Guardian Australia has retained a $9m capital fund for investment in the sustainability of the business and possible expansion.
Stinton thanked Wood for his invaluable contribution, saying: “Graeme was critical in the setting up of Guardian Australia and we are proud of what we have achieved.”
He said the company was now working on a strategic plan for the medium-term future of Guardian Australia. “It’s too early to go into any details now, but it is absolutely our intention to invest more in Australian journalism and become a dominant progressive voice in the Australian media landscape,” he said.
The probable merger of Nine and Fairfax Media would create another “formidable competitor” from an advertising perspective, Stinton said.
“Guardian Australia’s audience is unique and growing, and this will enable us to hold our own in the market, but reader revenue will become even more critical in the years ahead.”
Guardian Australia has grown to become the fifth most popular news website in the country, with 3 million unique visitors every month, according to the latest figures from Nielsen. It has more online readers than News Corp Australia’s mastheads the Australian and the Daily Telegraph.
Guardian Australia is part of the Guardian’s 24-hour global news operation, helping to cover breaking international stories in all parts of the world.
Since launching its US and Australia digital editions in 2011 and 2013, respectively, traffic from outside the UK now represents more than two-thirds of the Guardian’s total digital audience.