Just four years after its US launch, the Financial Times has made
huge inroads in the business news area. What also stands out is the
editors' willingness to listen to PR pitches. Claire Atkinson
Robert Thomson is an expert multi-tasker. While doing this interview,
he's rewriting a colleague's speech, briefing the PR department on the
paper's top stories, keeping watch for the arrival of new FT.com chief
Chrystia Freeland, and dreaming up what he's going to say for his
regular slot on CNN at 5:30pm. Oh, and he's peeling an orange.
Between these projects, Thomson gives an unhurried evolution of the US
edition of the Financial Times, established in 1997. "We have a real
recognition factor now," says Thomson, claiming that readers now
automatically equate "FT" with Financial Times.
Thomson took his post in the summer of 1998, and has seen US circulation
rise from 32,000 to the current monthly average figure of 122,000
(January-June, 2001, Audit Bureau of Circulation). The global
circulation figure is 487,000. "We are still in a growth phase," says
Thomson. "Even in a slow market, we have shown we're durable." The aim
is to reach 250,000 in the US over a period of five years.
While the pink-colored newspaper is trailing The Wall Street Journal
(WSJ), which sells 1.78 million copies in the US (average paid for the
six months to September 30, ABC), it bills itself as the paper for
internationally minded US businesspeople. In order to illustrate the
FT's positioning, Thomson mentions how much space was dedicated to the
EchoStar-DirecTV merger talks over the past few months.
"This story had big international themes," he says. "The space we gave
it was undiminished by war coverage. For quite a bit of that story, we
were ahead. We gave it more space than anyone."
Hollis Rafkin-Sax, GM of Edelman's financial practice, says, "I would
recommend them to companies doing cross-border deals. They are very easy
to deal with, and very receptive."
While many of her clients realize that the FT is a very dominant name in
Europe, it's a different story here at home. "Domestically, it's a
harder sell," says Rafkin-Sax. When clients decide to take their
announcements elsewhere, she says there is always the chance of
suggesting trend-setting ideas to the FT.
Numerous PR execs, however, say they prefer dealing with FT reporters,
who are happy to direct calls to colleagues working on more relevant
pieces, and are more willing than the WSJ to let PR execs explain their
suggestions before making a judgement about their appropriateness. That
has lots of PR people trying the FT first. But don't make the mistake of
offering something that's been in the WSJ.
One PR exec, who has worked with Greenpeace, says, "Working with the
general assignment editor, I found a home for an item that the WSJ had
dismissed as an inconsequential environmental story. The FT editor
worked to understand the implications of our campaign on international
trade policies." He adds that pitches should go to US bureaus before
Thomson says PR execs should not worry that there isn't room for them
because of war coverage. "People shouldn't think we're not going to
listen. We haven't given up our company focus."
The FT publishes six days a week, and is made up of two sections. While
the first carries international news and comment alongside political and
economic developments, the second is dedicated to coverage of companies
and markets. The latter includes company news and world market reports,
as well as Global Investing, a new daily column aimed at money managers
and professional investors.
In addition to the main paper, the FT publishes around 200 special
reports, giving in-depth attention to certain industries, management
issues, or country-specific profiles. On Saturdays, the paper also
carries a light Weekend section covering arts and culture.
If you want to pitch any of the 70 US-based journalists, it's worth
noting that they work on two deadlines. The first edition, which arrives
on Tokyo newsstands by 5am, has reporters most busy between 12pm-2pm. PR
execs are also advised that during the early evening, reporters are busy
polishing stories for the US edition's 7pm deadline.
Address: 1330 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10019
Tel: (212) 641-6500
Fax: (212) 641-6329
US managing editor: Robert Thomson
Editor, global investing: Deborah Brewster Editor, Time-Off: Donnette
News editors: Julie Earle (companies), Tally Goldstein (technology)