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Former Guardian editor says Facebook hoovered up over €20 million of its advertising income last year

Alan Rusbridger says Facebook is “taking all the money” because “they have algorithms we don’t understand”.

FORMER EDITOR OF The Guardian Alan Rusbridger believes that Facebook sucked up nearly £20 million (€24 million) of the newspaper’s digital advertising revenue last year.

Rusbridger, now principal of Lady Margaret Hall college at Oxford University, said The Guardian forecast online revenues of £100 million (€119 million) before he left in May last year.

In the end, the newspaper’s digital turnover was £81.9 million (€97 million), which was down 2.3% on 2014.

Speaking at the FT Weekend Live Festival in London, Rusbridger said The Guardian’s prediction never materialised “because it all went to Facebook”.

Rusbridger served as editor of The Guardian from 1995 until May 2015.

A Guardian spokeswoman declined to comment. At the time it published its annual report in July, sources at the newspaper blamed online giants including Google and Facebook for hoovering up ad spend.

NSA Surveillance Alan Rusbridger, pictured in December 2012 Source: AP/Press Association Images

“At the time I left (The Guardian in 2015) we were just about managing sustainability,” Rusbridger said.

Then Facebook came along and changed everything, not through anyone’s fault, but just it was this behemoth that started taking 85 cents in every dollar in advertising and that changed the whole environment.
It’s been a Force 12 hurricane.

Rusbridger said Facebook does present some opportunities for publishers, but “they are taking all the money” because “they have algorithms we don’t understand, which are a filter between what we do and how people receive it”.

“This is going to get worse because they have a means of distribution which we simply can’t cope with and the more people switch on to these devices, the more problematic that question is going to get.”

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He added however that Facebook “is a brilliant company”, and that “there’s no point whinging about it”.

Google is a brilliant company too. Their presence does mean, though, that you have to adapt your business model not just for the things that are changing year on year but almost month to month.

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

- Jake Kanter

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