For all the talk of massive growth on the internet, you can still
count on two hands the number of new-media companies that have grasped
the nettle and advertised offline.
Among them - as of last month - is FT.com and the man responsible for
the press campaign is its head of marketing, Yehuda Shapiro.
Shapiro, a former Young & Rubicam account man, is one of those marketers
who wears his allegiance to his brand like a badge. Brandishing an FT
pen, he enthuses about the importance of the FT.com site to its users
and talks at length about the FT brand.
Happily, his enthusiasm would appear to be infectious. Since Shapiro
joined at the start of last year, the site’s audience has more than
At the end of 1997, it was being used by 680,000 registered users; one
year on, nearly one-and-a-half million users were registered. And this
figure is increasing at a rate of 25,000 new ’sign-ons’ a week.
The Internet Hot 100 ranks FT.com as the number one European site for
business news and finance and it is the top revenue earner among all UK
sites, taking pounds 1.1 million from advertisers in the six months to
August 1998, according to Fletcher Research’s annual survey, UK
But there’s one source of revenue that - unlike its great rival, The
Wall Street Journal - the FT has yet to tap: online subscriptions. The
Wall Street Journal’s site, www.wsj.com, has a much smaller user-base of
250,000, but all these people pay dollars 59 (pounds 37) a year - making
for potential revenue of over pounds 9 million.
So how long can FT.com resist the temptation to introduce
Shapiro won’t divulge when, or even if, it will go down the Journal’s
route. But it is already dipping a toe in the water with the new global
archive, which has been live since the end of 1998.
Previously, the archive only covered FT material, but the new version
offers access to some 3.5 million items from an international library of
more than 3,000 news sources. Users can access the past month’s FT
articles for free, but there is a dollars 1.50 charge to view the full
text of articles sourced from other publications.
Shapiro believes this will make the site more accessible to new
’Eighty per cent of our users are not daily FT readers, but FT.com is a
different product with a different readership,’ he says. ’We hope to
attract middle-management and small company users who will set up
’pay-as-you-go’ accounts for their entire company.’
Shapiro is pinning his hopes on the archive and this is one of the
reasons behind the press campaign, which has been running in specialist
business magazines such as Director and Management Today. ’I’m not out
to be an evangelist for the web,’ he says, ’but I do want people to see
that FT.com is complementary to the paper - just a bit more cheeky and
’Tabloidy’ is the last word you’d use to describe the 38-year-old
Shapiro, who has a reputation for designer tastes and an obsession with
South African by birth, Shapiro came to Britain with his family at the
age of two and grew up in West Sussex. A linguist, he studied French and
German at Oxford, and has since mastered Spanish and Italian.
Shapiro joined Y&R straight from university, working on the Oil of Ulay
account. ’I was second only to the Cadbury account men when it came to
the agency girls,’ he boasts. ’My drawers were always stocked full of
At the agency he worked under Tom Bury, Ogilvy & Mather’s former deputy
chairman. Bury remembers his former charge as ’exceptionally gracious
and terribly well-mannered’ though ’you wouldn’t say he was destined for
Bury explains: ’He was one of those people who would be a brilliant
wicket-keeper. You never really notice them simply because they never
make a mistake’.
Shapiro didn’t really enjoy agency life and, after a year, he left to
work in the music industry, before taking the plunge into new media in
Revelling in his job at the FT, he is clear about his aims there and
thinks he knows how he will achieve them. ’The Wall Street Journal’s
site is generally assumed to be our arch-rival, but the majority of its
users are in America. In the US, we are the big non-American business
and news provider, but we’re the top European site.
’I want to get bosses saying ’I want people in my company to use FT.com
if they’re going to use the web’. I think the archive will achieve
THE SHAPIRO FILE
1982: Young & Rubicam, account executive
1983: Decca International, languages editor
1986: Deutsche Grammophon at Polygram Classics, press and promotions
1988: EMI Classics, promotions and communications manager
1993: Virgin Retail Europe, continental Europe, marketing director
1995: Freelance marketing consultant
1998: FT.com, head of marketing.