OLD Media Moves

Assessing the FT's strength in upcoming battle with WSJ

August 19, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Alan Ruddock of The Observer newspaper in London takes a close look at The Financial Times on Sunday to determine whether it has the ability to withstand an onslaught from The Wall Street Journal.

Ruddock wrote, “On the surface, the FT is in reasonably robust shape. The circulation collapse that marred the editorial reign of Andrew Gowers has been stabilised The Financial Timesunder Lionel Barber and the paper has returned to profitability. In the July ABC figures, the FT was the only national daily to show an increase over July 2006, and the only one to increase sales over the six months from February. Its website now has close to 100,000 subscribers. It is a global brand, selling more copies in Europe and the US than it does in the UK, and has a strong presence in Asia. But the apparent robustness may only be skin deep, and the paper faces a fierce onslaught.

“Delve into the ABC figures and some weaknesses become apparent. In the UK, almost 30,000 of its ‘sales’ are bulks, leaving a fully paid-up circulation in its home country of less than 90,000. Its 100,000 website subscribers compare to 900,000 taking the WSJ’s online service, and its circulation trails behind the WSJ’s 1.8 million. In the UK, its market has been eroded by the expansion of quality business news coverage in the national dailies and has been nipped at by the City AM freesheet.

“The FT may have a global presence, but it lacks a bit of soul. The WSJ’s editorial pages are a must read for anyone with an interest in US politics, but the FT’s views on politics in the UK, or anywhere else, are less compelling, though it has made a lot of political running since Gordon Brown took over. It has some immense editorial strengths, but no strong voice. One of the dangers of focusing on the ‘global brand’ is that it is all too easy to lose sight of a simple fact: newspapers need passion.”

Read more here.

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