The Financial Times has long been a British institution, but since its stateside launch two years ago, it has made great inroads into the US market. Claire Atkinson reports on the best way to target this business paper with an international flavor.
The Financial Times has long been a British institution, but since
its stateside launch two years ago, it has made great inroads into the
US market. Claire Atkinson reports on the best way to target this
business paper with an international flavor.
The Financial Times may be a business institution as British as navy
pinstripe suits and umbrellas, but the newspaper’s Stateside version is
taking root fast.
The tailored paper, aimed at an American business community increasingly
interested in foreign markets, is two years old this month. The UK
edition had been available in the US but was hampered by poor
A dedicated US edition arrived soon after tough-talking Texan Marjorie
Scardino was appointed chief executive of FT’s parent group Pearson at
the beginning of 1997. As yet, the FT’s 80,000 daily circulation figure
doesn’t come anywhere near the 1.8 million sold by The Wall Street
Journal, but at least it is on an upward curve.
Strong international coverage
Circulation is up 9% for the half year, and is projected to reach
100,000 by the year-end. The paper is staying tight-lipped about
advertising revenue for the North American edition, although it claimed
that ad sales have risen 87% over the past year. Pearson has such
confidence in the FT’s ability to take on the US market that it is
investing a second 100 million pounds into its international
The FT’s strongest card is certainly its international coverage, which
is pulled from the Asian and European editions. But the so-called Pink
Paper has not been slow at breaking major US business news. The FT
claims it was the first to report merger talks between oil giants Exxon
and Mobil last November, a deal which later became one of the biggest
business stories of all time. And a current print ad campaign for the FT
pokes fun at rivals, including The Wall Street Journal, for following up
its story about the Bankers Trust and Deutsche Bank merger.
The small US-based team is under no illusions about the difficulties of
breaking US business news stories. Many of the staff are new to the US
market and are up against the huge resources of the metropolitan papers,
USA Today and the WSJ. Investment banking correspondent Tracy Corrigan
says: ’The Journal has a huge metropolitan position, but compared with
the UK, there isn’t a big choice about where you get your business
news.’ The British newspaper market is arguably the toughest in the
world with nine national daily papers.
Wall Street core
Corrigan has seen the FT grow since her arrival three years ago. ’The
financial institutions knew before what we were,’ she says, ’but now I
think we have become a core of Wall Street. People start to notice you
and you get calls and it gets easier and easier.’
Since the debut of the FT’s US edition in 1997, the number of editorial
staff has grown considerably. There are now 25 reporters covering the US
market for both the UK and US editions. However, that means double duty
for reporters working toward two deadlines.
The UK edition closes between 1pm and 2:30pm EST, while the US version
closes at the end of the day. This limits reporters to breakfast and
dinner meetings rather than lunch dates.
The paper’s mainstays are the big- league newsmakers, and it is rare
that deals worth less than dollars 100 million make it into the paper.
However, Australian-born managing editor Robert Thomson says: ’We cover
small deals if they are symbolic. If a small company is doing something
cross-border, it is interesting if it represents a trend. (For example,)
Betty Liu, our Atlanta correspondent, wrote about a Chinese appliance
manufacturer opening up a plant in the Carolinas. We are asking whether
China is going to be the next Japan.’
Thomson has been working from an office next door to the former
Copacabana club on New York’s East 60th Street, but he’s packing his
desk for a move to the ITT building on Sixth Avenue. Now everyone from
the managing director to the reporters will be located on the same
spacious modern floor. They are even changing the funereal music on the
phone to something more hip.
The FT is also bringing in fresh troops. It has just named UK foreign
news editor Andrew Hill as US bureau chief, and a replacement for
Corrigan, who is returning to the UK, will be announced in the next few
The FT’s gossip column, Avenue of the Americas, is run by senior
columnist Holly Yeager. She is looking for profile material on
characters in the news and fun stories about personalities who’ve
crossed swords. A recent story about why Canadian media royal Conrad
Black did not receive a knighthood from the Queen was picked up by the
New York Post.
If you’re pitching the news desk, Thomson advises PR pros to contact
staff via e-mail. The most successful e-mail pitches explain why a story
is relevant to the paper in one paragraph. The FT has a fairly open
policy when negotiating exclusives. Unlike its rivals, FT staff claim
they do not threaten to drop stories if they are pitched elsewhere,
though Corrigan advises that non-exclusive pitches will affect
The marketing department’s vice president, John Lizars, is starting a
new TV and print campaign in September, though Thomson is waging his own
buzz war to support the newspaper. The managing editor’s official day
concludes around 8pm, after which Thomson takes off for a tour of the
media circuit, making speeches, presentations and the odd TV
Thomson may pop up on ABC’s World News This Morning or on The McLaughlin
Group. And while Dow Jones siblings CNBC and The Wall Street Journal
have their own editorial information sharing, the FT has an informal
alliance with CNN’s Money Line. If a story is likely to break, the FT
will pass it on to CNN in return for a credit.
Thomson, who launched the fast- growing Saturday edition of the FT in
the UK, has a surprisingly relaxedmanner for someone with such a
high-pressure lifestyle. But he’s not complacent. The challenge is to
increase reader understanding of the American FT. His second challenge
is to ’generate a flow of original content, whether that be scoops,
analysis or expertise you can’t find anywhere else.’ It appears he’s
doing a good job of meeting that challenge.
1330 Sixth Avenue Eighth Floor New York, NY 10019. Tel: (212) 641 6500.
Fax: (212) 641 6515. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Managing editor: Robert Thomson
Banking, insurance: John Authers
Capital markets: Thomas Catan
Investment banking: Tracy Corrigan
Daily market reports: John Labate
M&A: William Lewis
Retailing, tobacco: Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson
Telecoms: Richard Waters
New York bureau chief: Andrew Hill
Energy, utilities, Houston, TX: Hillary Durgin
Biotechnology, Boston, MA: Victoria Griffith
Computer software, San Mateo, CA: Louise Kehoe
Technology correspondent, San Mateo, CA: Roger Taylor
Soft drinks, Atlanta, GA: Betty Liu
Agriculture, Chicago, IL: Nikki Tait.