Media Analysis: Financial press ready for recovery

As Financial News ushers in a new editor, the investment press is gearing up for what many are predicting will be a recovery on the stock market. Mark Johnson examines what the key titles in this sector have to offer

A bad financial wind blows no one any good, not even the business press. The sharp decline in the value of shares since the dotcom bubble burst has had damaging effects on both sales and advertising in the sector.

Over the past 12 months, however, shares in the FTSE techMARK 100 index have soared by 70 per cent. And although the FTSE all-share average recovered by only 15 per cent, stocks that took a bashing after 11 September, such as British Airways, have soared by 143 per cent over the past year. Some pundits believe the stock market could be primed for a prolonged bull run. If so, financial PR will reap the rewards as companies begin talking to investors again.

How they line up

The specialist financial press caters for specific types of investor and financial specialist.

Financial News, whose co-founder and editor-in-chief Peter Wilson-Smith stepped down last week, serves primarily the specialist investment community, although its new editor, former executive editor William Wright, says private investors are among its readership.

The independent weekly has an ABC circulation of 14,114 and covers trends, opportunities and threats in corporate finance. But Wright warns: 'We are not a leisure read.'

Pearson-owned Investors Chronicle (with an ABC of 40,649) offers investment advice on almost every kind of investment while championing the private investor. 'We want to level the playing field between the institutional investor - the professional - and the private investor,' says editor Matthew Vincent. This month sees the launch of a standalone Investor Guide.

MSM International's Shares (ABC 12,386) also targets the private investor, but focuses particularly on companies not covered by the national newspapers, which tend to concentrate on the blue-chips.

Shares editor Jeremy Lacey says his aim is to give 'useful information to readers but in a more lively and entertaining way'.

Whatever their differences, each of the publications is positive about the financial markets this year.

FINANCIAL NEWS

Editor, William Wright

'We target senior bankers, lawyers, fund managers and anyone in and around the European investment banking and securities and asset-management industries. We are their trade title, if you like.

'Our main strength is the depth, breadth and quality of our editorial output. We have 33 editorial staff and more than a dozen contract freelances.

Everyone is a specialist, and our brief is to get to know people at every institution. We have more people covering Europe than either the FT or Wall Street Journal.

'First and foremost, we look to the PR industry for access. The challenge for PR agencies is to get the clout and recognition within the organisations they represent.

Otherwise, from a journalist's point of view, he or she becomes the gatekeeper without actually opening the gate.

'The distinction between us and others is that we don't tell readers what happened last week; we tell them what is interesting and important about it and what will happen next week.'

INVESTORS CHRONICLE

Editor, Matthew Vincent

'We target all private investors in the UK looking for independent, reliable, trustworthy information on which to make investment decisions, whether for funds, shares, property, pensions or any investment. We want to convince UK investors that it's a rewarding challenge.

'One advantage we have is the size of the editorial team - 28 - which is more than any newspaper's City or personal finance pages. That allows us to go into more depth and be more rigorous in our research.

'PROs who acknowledge the needs of private investors by providing access to firms so that they can learn about them, their shares and their financial services are the ones who can best help our readers.

'On 5 February, we're launching a standalone supplement called Investor Guide. The first one looks at ISAs and tax planning. We spoke to more than 130 companies for it. Some were helpful and some could have been better. The speed and accuracy of response can determine how good a job we can do for their potential customers.'

SHARES

Editor, Jeremy Lacey

'From the hobbyist to the day traders, our readers are retail investors. But we also go in to see brokers, because analysts like to hear what they're saying.

'There is so much information thrown at the private investor from daily papers and websites. We pick out the important news for them from the white noise in the background.

'I've always found the PR industry very helpful, but there is a premium on ideas from clients and we're always looking for key contacts. It's a symbiotic relationship - we give exposure to clients and PROs save us time and help us put more information into our stories.

'The best stories are probably the ones nobody else has got. On companies, ours tend to come from the mid-level market. The blue-chips are extremely well covered by the dailies and it's difficult to get our own angle on the same stories. We go and see smaller companies.

We also differ by giving our own views of a company so that readers get value out of the magazine.'

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