A Gutenberg moment
Thursday 6 March 2014
The Financial Times has just gone through its “Gutenberg moment,” with digital revenues for the first time outstripping print, according to managing editor James Lamont.
Setting up a paywall for its internet news site was its biggest decision of the past decade. “It was a good decision. It has guaranteed our survival. We are profitable and we can see our future,” he told journalists studying at the Reuters Institute in Oxford recently.
Setting up a paywall for its internet news site was the FT's biggest decision of the past decade. 'It has guaranteed our survival. We are profitable and we can see our future'
Highlights from his upbeat talk:
- Digital subscriptions have been rising at an annual rate of 31 per cent.
- The move to digital meant profits grew 17 per cent last year on a revenue increase of only 1 per cent.
- Fastest growth is in mobile, which accounts for half of traffic to ft.com.
- Print circulation continues to decline (to around 240k), but is profitable because of cheaper print technology and rationalisation of distribution. “We want to keep print going.”
- The proportion of revenues earned from content grows - now 63 per cent compared with 37 per cent for ads. “There is a secular decline in advertising, but we can now survive on subscriptions.”
- Sales are predominantly in 1. Continental Europe 2. UK, 3. US. 4. Asia. “We are global.”
- Web analytics show a “long tail of stories nobody reads.” They are cutting down on those.
- Analytics show at what times readers in the main regions access its news. This led to changes in news schedules.
- The Financial Times increased its journalist staff from 450 to 611 between 2005 and 2011. Now there are 571. It hires five journalists a year from outside.
- It hires journalists on the expectation they will stay for 20 years and have five different jobs. One in four changed jobs last year.
- News stories on multiple platforms have become shorter. “Engagement,” “community” and “relevance” are the buzzwords.
Marcus Ferrar is a former correspondent and media marketing manager of Reuters. He is chairman of The Baron Editorial Advisory Board. This column was first published on his blog. ■