Newspapers Publishing

Embrace tech, boycott Facebook: Financial Times charts its course to a million paying subscribers

The Financial Times marked 130 years in 2018, with a paying readership of more than 930,000, three-quarters of which are digital subscriptions.

It was also voted the most trustworthy brand in the annual Global Business Influencers survey (GBI) from Ipsos, and identified as having the highest brand reach of any international publication in Europe, followed by Time, the New York Times and The Economist.

Recognised as Changemaker by the City of New York in the 2018 Best for NYC campaign, the FT is making some changes of its own as it moves toward its next subscriber milestone of 1 million paying readers.

Focus: Technology

The Financial Times is expanding its coverage of technology, stationing more tech-focused reporters around the globe, adding a new editing team in London, and a new FT.com destination where readers can go for all FT technology coverage.

According to the newspaper, the technology section in the FT homepage and app will bring together coverage from tech sector specialists and a network of global correspondents.

“For more than 20 years, the FT has brought agenda-setting technology coverage from Silicon Valley and Asia to the rest of the world,” said Lionel Barber, editor of the Financial Times. “Technology permeates all areas of our lives and impacts global economies, markets and societies. The creation of this new team reflects the importance of this topic to our readers.”

The FT aims to broaden reporting on innovation in areas like fintech, AI, cybersecurity, transportation and healthcare, and explore the intersection of tech and politics, helping readers understand the enormous and increasing impact of technology on finance, markets and society.

New campaign (and Facebook boycott)

To increase its subscriber base, the FT has also launched major new campaign, called “Don’t decide until you subscribe.”

The new campaign, Digiday reports, is spending more on digital out-of-home advertising, LinkedIn and Twitter and audio advertising and podcasts, but none of that money is going toward Facebook, at least in the U.S.

The Financial Times is among the group of publishers who cut off ad spending on Facebook earlier this year, expressing concern over the requirement in Facebook’s policy that advertisers verify their identity, something publishers say would increase their liability risks.

“We strongly believe to conflate news with advocacy is a very dangerous direction to take,” said Jon Slade, the FT’s chief commercial officer. “There’s also a lack of clarity around the liability.”

While staying away from Facebook, the FT has for the first time begun advertising on podcasts, and has also earmarked ad-spend on awareness campaigns in major cities such as London and Singapore.

“We’re very aware of where our audience is, and that’s where we go,” said Fiona Spooner, the FT’s global marketing director for B2C.

Facebook has become an essential subscription driver for publishers, and if the FT can push through to a million subscribers without using the world’s largest social network, it will provide publishers—many of whom are wary of Facebook—an alternative model of growth that’s not primarily dependent on Menlo Park’s whims and algorithms.

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