MEDIA: Media Profile - FT gaining reputation for its coverage - andresponsiveness

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 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

calling London.

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.


Financial Times

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)

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