There are two ways you can look at the Financial Times. On the one
hand, you can see it quite clearly as a business-to-business daily for
the City's financial markets, a trade paper that started doing a little
bit of real world news and really got a taste for it.
Or, on the other hand, you could regard it as just another quality
national newspaper but one that, for one reason or another, isn't scared
of numbers. And there are an awful lot of numbers towards the back end
of the FT. For the uninitiated, it can be pretty intimidating stuff.
Well, the good news for the number-blind is that we could be seeing less
of them in future. The FT is contemplating one of the most significant
changes it has embarked on in recent history - it might be dropping its
daily managed funds section, rounding up all the numbers currently
housed there and corralling them into a weekly A4 supplement.
Is this wise? Before the dotcom boom came along and muddied the waters,
the FT had for more than a decade been following a clear evolutionary
strategy based on maintaining its City heritage while building its
credentials as an increasingly broad-based newspaper. Heavens, it even
boasts sports pages these days. But previously, the strategy has always
been built on adding stuff - pagination, production values, broader
journalistic expertise, a greater geographical scope.
This is the first time we've seen evidence of the FT actually attempting
to modify one of its previously key financial market roles.
On the face of it, the rationale here is quite understandable. The world
has changed. The people who need to work with these fund numbers every
day will already have them, one way or another, available on screen. So
why lay waste the forests of Finland just to print vast screeds of
numbers that the majority of the title's readers (and potential readers)
don't want to know about?
On the other hand, there are signs that the move is causing all sorts of
internal angst. An FT spokesman told Campaign that any official comment
would be premature at this stage.
But one insider said: "There's all sorts of talk about adding reader
value by introducing editorial on managed funds, but the overall agenda
is one of cost-cutting. And it's not exactly regarded as a section with
advertising potential - it's a specialism within a specialism. This is
as dry a ghetto as you'll find in publishing."
Might this send the wrong signals to its core audience - which, after
all, is still clustered densely within the Square Mile? Steve Goodman,
MediaCom's press buying director, says that this is an interesting
"I can certainly imagine some readers will be disappointed that the
service will no longer be available on a daily basis. I think they
should be careful each time they think about losing something about the
paper that makes it unique," he cautions.
Interestingly, the FT move comes at a time when two other nationals are
looking at financial spin-offs, albeit at the other end of the market
spectrum - personal finance. They're different too in that neither will
involve loss of coverage within the main titles. The Daily Telegraph,
for instance, is testing the water with a one-off magazine next January,
called Your Money. It will be published in partnership with Haymarket
Publications and, if successful, it could come out on a regular
The Mail on Sunday is being far less cautious. Having decided, as Chris
Grimes, the financial sales director of The Mail on Sunday puts it, "to
grab the bull by the horns", it is gearing up to launch a 100-page
glossy magazine, called Financial Mail on Sunday Money, which will sell
off the news-stand at a £2.50 cover price. The magazine's target
circulation is 100,000.
Are all three developments evidence of increasing fragmentation and
specialisation in the press market? Well, perhaps. And there might
actually be a different moral to be gleaned from these three very
Alex Stitt, The Daily Telegraph's enterprise director, insists that the
big story in his paper's case is strategic co-operation.
"We are acknowledging that magazines are a different discipline," he
says. "Newspaper publishers don't necessarily have the expertise in
selling magazines off the news-stand. This is the first time that a
national newspaper is working in partnership with a major consumer
magazine company. That is the really interesting story here."
Whether organised through consumer publishers or in-house departments
such as The Mail on Sunday's finance desk, these supplements are clearly
becoming an important part of commercial strategy for their newspaper
sponsors. It remains to be seen whether the FT's move means the end for
a difficult area of financial coverage.