FT’s Ridding says print still has a future
Financial Times chief executive officer John Ridding writes for The Drum about why print newspapers still have a future.
Ridding writes, “At this point, the objection is often raised: ‘OK. That’s fine for the FT. It’s a specialist business publication for the affluent.’ Up to a point, Lord Copper. Yes, the FT is special, and different. But differentiation is open to all publications – be it brand, expertise, columnists or some other dimension. Private Eye, to make the point, is achieving circulation highs not seen since the target-rich days of Mrs Thatcher. And it is increasingly necessary for all publications. ‘Commodity’ publications which fail to distinguish themselves are probably doomed. A shake-out looms.
“Quite often, it seems, the strongest resistance to increased newspaper pricing is internal. The lure of ‘reach’ runs deep through traditional news organisations. On announcing the aforementioned FT price rise back in 2007, and justifying it on the excellence of FT journalism, I immediately received an email from one of our economics writers. ‘I hope you know what you are doing,’ it read. De-coded, it meant, ‘I sincerely doubt you know what you are doing.’ By contrast, I received only half a dozen reader complaints. All of whom stayed loyal when given the price comparison with a cappuccino from Starbucks and the obvious lack of comparison with the cost, complexity and value of the product. The fact the FT editorial team has become so invested in relevance and return, engagement and real connections with our readers is a primary factor in our multi-channel growth and the resilience of print.
“Just as print publishers must change their business model to build content revenues, though, so they must also adapt that product and content to the format. Certain forms of journalism are simply better suited to print than online or video – and vice versa. Successful publications will understand that and respond accordingly. At the FT, for instance, the days when the quarterly results of a top blue-chip would make the front page by default are long gone. Rather, value added reporting and analysis, either through exclusivity or judgment, are the preserve of print. Those breaking blue chip earnings can and should go online, immediately.”
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