The Guardian - Growing the user base The Guardian way with Jesse Wilkins
Subscription LeagueJune 08, 202200:24:15

The Guardian - Growing the user base The Guardian way with Jesse Wilkins

The Guardian boasts its reputation as digital readers' most trusted news provider. While a majority of the leading players in the media industry are leveraging paywalls as part of their growth effort, the British newspaper has been keeping the content free and accessible to everyone without paywalls. Listen to the episode for the extraordinary success story.

The most trusted digital-content news in the world, The Guardian’s core business mission has always been to help people understand better the world we live in by keeping journalism accessible to everyone. 

The model that the brand settled on to achieve this was keeping all its content free without adopting paywalls. While this is clearly a countertrend move, especially in the journalism industry, the British newspaper enjoyed the most significant rewards - an exponential increase in readership, the capacity to perform effectively A/B testings with velocity, and customer trust.

The Guardian’s customer experience optimization based on routine research and A/B testing enabled the brand to see themselves as the readers saw them, hold that mirror up and speak to them in an authentic way.

For noteworthy quotes and key takeaways from the episode, read the article - Growing the user base The Guardian way - with Jesse Wilkins

Episode Topics at a Glance

  • The Guardian's evolution of success
  • Guardian's mission to make journalism accessible to everyone
  • Voluntary donation
  • Why The Guardian settled on offering open access without using paywalls
  • Research and A/B testings 


More about Jesse Wilkins

Currently at the Guardian, one of the world's leading liberal newspapers. After working in a variety of e-commerce roles, Jesse has spent the last few years in the donation/subscription space, thinking about how to convert readers of the Guardian, which has a free and open model of journalism with no paywall. He was part of a small team that launched the Guardian’s voluntary donations ‘Contributions’ product in 2016 and played a key part in helping them reach 1m acts of financial support, helping to pivot the organization towards a reader funded model. He is now the senior growth manager for global reader revenues, leading a team of six.

Jesse Wilkins' Links


00:00 Welcome to the Subscription League 

00:22 Jesse Wilkins Introduction 

01:15 Can you explain what business model The Guardian has landed on and allowed you to break even with the $1 million financial support? 

02:45 Background on the Ownership Model at The Guardian 

04:55 How did you approach the challenge of keeping content free? 

07:38 Why is it so important to do A/B testing and experiments? 

09:32 How much optimization did you put behind the current messaging on each article and subscription page? 

10:21 Do you have anything to share regarding the triggering strategy and the way the messaging is adapted to the content and the way it is displayed? 

12:02 Failed Experiments and Surprises in A/B Testing 

14:25 Experiments Conducted on Web vs Mobile App 

15:21 Your content is not hidden behind a paywall; how does that impact you? 

17:06 Are your heavier readers donating the most or is there a different correlation there? 

17:51 Why is the solution you picked for The Guardian working compared to others? 

23:02 Where to Learn More About The Guardian 

23:34 Thank you and outro


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