Updated: Guardian.co.uk Has Lost £20 Million Since 2002/03

Guardian News & Media has lost £20 million from Guardian.co.uk in the last seven years. Editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger wrote on the site: “Since 2002/3, our spending on Guardian.co.uk (operational and capex) has exceeded revenue by just £20m.

“There’s a crisis in the industry, and the Guardian is no more immune than anyone else, but it’s a myth that we’ve plouged lunatic sums into digital.” He was responding to a comment – left on Roy Greenslade’s blog post about our exclusive PCUK/Harris poll – that had said: “It’s ploughed so much into its internet operation that it is now having to lay off journalists.”

Rusbridger’s comment confirms one of two Guardian.co.uk figures reported anonymously by FT.com last week, when it said: “A person with knowledge of the business claimed the total net loss on the digital side since 2002 had been £20 million, although no breakdown of those figures was provided.

“Annual revenue, all derived from digital advertising, had now risen to about £30 million.” Rusbridger did not disclose an annual online revenue figure. And online was included in GNM’s combined, cross-media 2008/09 earnings, which in July showed the unit’s losses widened from £26.4 million to £36.8 million.

Electronic Telegraph was the UK’s first serious national online newspaper, but Guardian News & Media has consistently invested seriously in its website as a third plank, accompanying The Guardian and The Observer, and finding new, overseas audiences to exploit in the process. It would consider cash put in to Guardian.co.uk an investment, rather than a straight loss.

Update: GNM digital media director Emily Bell also joined the comments to say: “The Guardian’s digital revenues “have grown tenfold in the last eight years to approaching £30 million.”

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