Guardian US Record Traffic No Match for Facebook, Google

Inability to translate robust audience into equivalent ad dollars forces paper into major U.S. layoffs.

In March of this year, Guardian US welcomed 34.7 million unique visitors, a new record. A few months later, the organization was celebrating another highwater mark, for June, of 41.8 million unique visitors

But that sort of traffic means little without the accompanying ad revenue dollars and today, when the paper announced it would be reducing its U.S. staff by one third to around 100 employees, Guardian US hinted at another critical stat: the amount of advertising dollars being sucked up by Facebook and Google, with their engaged audiences and precise targeting tools. From today’s official communique:

According to some estimates, technology groups such as Facebook and Google attract 85% of digital advertising spend in the U.S. Faced with such competition, Guardian revenues have failed to meet expectations despite having risen in the current financial year.

In an email to staff, the Guardian’s editor in chief, Katharine Viner, and the chief executive, David Pemsel, said the cuts were necessary even though strong audience growth in the U.S. had led to the newspaper group being “among the top five digital newspaper platforms in America”.

This Saturday’s Online News Association conference session in Denver featuring three Guardian US staffers might feel a little bittersweet. It’s titled “Guardian US: Building Communities – How the Guardian Involves Its Readers in Its Journalism.” It will follow an opening day, today, during which the first keynote session featured Facebook director of product Fidji Simo.