WORLD: Medium of the Week - International Herald Tribune revamps its content

The Paris-based daily is set to grow under a new single owner, Mark Tungate writes.

The International Herald Tribune is tweaking its content and adding colour to expand its readership and boost its offering for advertisers.

The changes have been introduced due to a change in ownership at the paper: in January 2003, The New York Times acquired full ownership of the IHT from The Washington Post, paying $65 million for its 50 per cent share.

For more than 35 years, the IHT was jointly owned by The New York Times and The Washington Post, neither of which seemed willing to provide the investment it needed. Now The New York Times appears to be making a serious investment in its Paris-based paper.

A raft of modernisation initiatives, including the long-awaited introduction of colour on the front page, are leading the change. Richard Wooldridge, the president and chief executive of the IHT, says: "This is an incredibly exciting time for the paper. As well as introducing colour, we'll be enhancing our news content."

Specific enhancements include bi-weekly Expanded Global Funds coverage, a weekly Wednesday column on human resources issues called The Workplace and a redesigned back page devoted to Enhanced International Business Travel, all of which are already up and running in the revamped paper.

Editorial talent from its sister paper The New York Times is beefing up the paper's columns: Floyd Norris, The New York Times' chief financial correspondent, pens an international markets column, while Roger Cohen, the former foreign editor of The New York Times, starts a twice-weekly column on European affairs in March.

Aimed at globetrotting business readers, the IHT's international expansion has been driven by innovation. For example, it has struck deals with prestigious domestic newspapers around the world to create IHT-branded English-language supplements. The strategy began in 1997 with Ha'aretz in Israel and now covers seven titles across Europe and Asia.

The full commitment of The New York Times is good news for advertisers. Wooldridge explains: "We've always said that we're 'the world's daily newspaper', but we've never been able to offer a truly global buy. From now on, when an advertiser wants to buy the world, they get our 245,000-strong circulation, plus the 1.7 million circulation of The New York Times."

The IHT will also introduce editorial front-page colour and colour inside its pages in March.

There seems little doubt that The New York Times wants to fashion the IHT in its own image. There was talk that the paper was going to be rechristened The New York Times International until research among readers convinced it to retain the brand. Wooldridge is optimistic: "These changes will delight loyal readers and cultivate new ones, as well as strengthening our position with advertisers."

The IHT has been through several metamorphoses in its lifetime. Originally called the Paris Herald in 1887, it was subsequently bought by James Gordon Bennett Jr, who spotted a gap in the market for a newspaper targeting the international elite.

In 1934, the New York Tribune bought the paper and renamed it the New York Herald Tribune, Paris Edition. Next, in 1959, John Hay Whitney, a wealthy US ambassador to Britain, acquired it. Whitney went into partnership with The Washington Post in 1966 and The New York Times in the following year, when the IHT was born.

Now that the IHT's ownership has been formalised, it will no doubt be seeking to claim more of the advertising budgets absorbed by its main rivals, the Financial Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Frequency: Daily, Mon-Sat

Circulation: 245,223 (Source: OJD)

Average cost of a page: 55,141 euros, black and white, 75,819 euros,

full colour

Typical advertisers: Rolex, Vodafone, HSBC

Competitors: FT, The Wall Street Journal (Europe and Asian editions)

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