June 19, 2019

With a Focus on Its Future, Financial Times Turns 125

On Wednesday, The F.T. is celebrating its 125th birthday. The newspaper’s London headquarters along the south bank of the Thames will be lit up in pink, the color of the paper on which it has been printed since shortly after it was founded. There will be a few parties — understated, of course, for these are straitened times in the City of London, and challenging ones for the newspaper industry.

Anniversaries are difficult for newspapers. At a time when they are losing subscribers and advertisers, and losing ground to digital media organizations that are still in their adolescence, few publishers want to emphasize their age.

But John Ridding, chief executive of The F.T., has a better digital story to tell than most other newspapers. True, the print editions are fading. But The F.T. has figured out how to make significant money from new outlets, without straying from its original purpose. So Mr. Ridding is not worried about looking back.

“Milestones matter,” he said. “In our industry, which has seen so much upheaval and disruption, it shows amazing continuity. The look and feel of the business was very different but there are some enduring constants that persist.”

In addition to its birthday, The F.T. can point to several other recent or pending milestones.

Last year the number of digital subscribers, now more than 300,000, surpassed the print circulation of the paper, which has slipped below that figure. This year, print and digital subscriptions and sales are set to overtake advertising as a source of revenue. Mobile devices now account for one-quarter of The F.T.’s digital traffic and about 15 percent of new subscriptions.

The F.T. was one of the first newspapers to charge readers for access to its Web site, which it did in 2002. It revamped its digital business model in 2007, moving to a “metered” approach, in which readers get a certain number of articles free before they are asked to subscribe.

Since 2007, The F.T.’s paying digital audience has tripled, and the metered approach has been adopted by other newspapers, including The New York Times.

With print circulation moving in the other direction — last year alone, it fell about 15 percent — The F.T. recently accelerated its move away from paper. In January, Lionel Barber, the paper’s editor, sent a memo to the staff, detailing a plan to “ensure that we are serving a digital platform first and a newspaper second.”

Under the plan, the print operations of The F.T. will be streamlined. While separate regional editions — for the United States, Britain, Continental Europe, Asia, India and the Middle East — will be maintained, there will be fewer nightly updates.

Editorial hierarchies will be simplified, Mr. Barber wrote, with an end to “octopus commissioning” under which reporters answer to multiple editors. Deadlines will be more strictly enforced. The paper is eliminating about three dozen editorial positions, though 10 posts are being created on the digital side.

Mr. Ridding described the new approach as “more of an evolution than a revolution.”

“It’s more of an intensification of an existing digital trend,” he said. “It’s driven by a need to redeploy resources to digital. That’s what readers want.”

It’s not all about cutting. The F.T. also continues to develop new products, like an F.T. Weekend mobile application, to accompany the Saturday/Sunday print edition, which remains an important source of advertising revenue; the app is set to be introduced shortly. Last year, The F.T. began publishing e-books with selected themes, compiling articles from the newspaper and enhancing them with material from journalists’ notebooks; the first one examined the possibility of a Greek exit from the euro zone.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/11/business/media/ft-looks-back-as-it-moves-into-digital-age.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

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