Journalist Q&A: Martin Dickson, Financial Times

Martin Dickson, US managing editor of the Financial Times, talks to Brittaney Kiefer about the importance of expanding its digital readership and maintaining a worldwide presence.

Name 
Martin Dickson

Title
US managing editor

Outlet 
Financial Times

Preferred contact
martin.dickson@ft.com

Website
www.ft.com

Martin Dickson, US managing editor of the Financial Times, talks to Brittaney Kiefer about the importance of expanding its digital readership and maintaining a worldwide presence.

What do you think is the future of print media?
We are in a position where we have a business model that is working as we move from print to digital.

We have pioneered a subscription model and now have more digital subscribers than print buyers of the newspaper. We have 312,000 paying digital subscribers, which places us in a good position going forward.

Along with the rest of the industry, we expect print to decline over the years, but we don't know the rate at which that's going to happen. We have to manage that change and will do what it takes to provide readers with the content they want on digital platforms.

A lot of readers still prefer to get their news in the traditional format. Those who want to have both versions typically read the print version in the morning and go online during the day for the latest news and comment. A lot of executives have said to me they like reading the first edition of the paper in tablet form the night before.

What role does social media play with the Financial Times and how do journalists use it?
We are aggressive in getting out news about the Financial Times and great stories we've got coming up through Twitter and Facebook. The other element is the extent to which our journalists are using social media as individual reporters and as representatives of FT.

We see a significant role for them in doing that, but they have to do it responsibly, remembering they represent the Financial Times brand.

One thing we definitely don't want is them tweeting news before we publish it online. It is inevitable that through social media, people working for news organizations will soon become individual brands. The issue for us is how do we manage that so the organization benefits as much as the individual?

We hope it strengthens us because the more individuals you have out there who have a following and whose views are taken very seriously, the more we hope it reflects back on the brand overall.

The Financial Times is one of the few media outlets that has expanded its foreign bureaus.

Many news organizations have cut back the number of foreign correspondents and bureaus. As a global publication, is it a struggle to have people everywhere you need them to be?
We have increasingly become a global organization during the past 20 to 30 years. Most news companies have been pulling back from the rest of the world, so there are very few now in our position that have maintained the foreign network and in some instances increased it.

There is no substitute for being on the ground and talking to local politicians, bankers, and men or women in the street to get a feel for what a country is like.

If you don't have that your reporting is shallow and people are not going to read a newspaper for foreign coverage if it's shallow and based on secondhand sources.

There are rare occasions when social media is on the ground and can be very useful in reporting. For example, if you went on Twitter during the 2011 London riots, you got some interesting crowdsourcing of what was happening in the streets at the time, several minutes before some TV and radio channels and websites reported it.

There can be a role for social media in reporting, but most of the time it is better to have an experienced correspondent on the ground. That way, the reporter can sift what they are told by local people and then bring it to readers' attention.

What are the big stories in 2013 that you will be following?
First, the US fiscal cliff deal and to what extent that leads to negotiations over a grand bargain on tax and spending later in the year.

Then there's Europe and the future of the eurozone. The banking and political leaders in Europe have managed to halt the drain of confidence in the eurozone and restore a degree of stability, but the question is to what extent will that continue or will there be a further loss of confidence in the euro.

The other huge global issue is China and what will happen there as a new leadership has just taken over.

What do you want PR people to know when they're reaching out?
The most important thing is they've got to be knowledgeable about the journalist they're contacting and the subject they are talking about.

The very best PR pros have these attributes and can help journalists as intermediaries, putting them in touch with the principal players in whatever story they're covering.

If they come to a story knowing that individual and what will interest them, it has the potential to be a very fruitful relationship. 

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