Media: Spotlight On: The Financial Times - How will the FT fare in the race to become a worldwide title? - The FT has succeeded in Europe, now it wants to go global, Alasdair Reid says

In July, Richard Lambert, the editor of the Financial Times, will be going to New York. No surprise there, you might think - Wall Street is the financial centre of the world. But this isn’t a fact-finding mission - Lambert won’t be coming back for at least a year.

In July, Richard Lambert, the editor of the Financial Times, will

be going to New York. No surprise there, you might think - Wall Street

is the financial centre of the world. But this isn’t a fact-finding

mission - Lambert won’t be coming back for at least a year.



Lambert’s relocation to the US will herald the start of one of the most

ambitious phases in the FT’s century-long history. Last week, it

announced a pounds 100 million programme to make it the world’s

pre-eminent international newspaper, expanding worldwide circulation

from 300,000 to around 450,000.



The strategy will be focused in the US, where Lambert will oversee the

development of a separate edition of the paper, but the cash will also

help to establish printing plants in Milan and Singapore.



Delaney Fletcher Bozell and its media arm, 20/20 Media, which already

handle the FT’s pounds 4 million pan-European account, will now also

pick up an additional pounds 3 million campaign to roll out the brand

across the rest of the world (Campaign, last week).



The FT, of course, has traditionally been a City paper, but over the

past decade - with the emergence of the single market - it has managed

to evolve into Europe’s top business daily. The European edition has a

circulation of 90,000. The UK figure is 170,000.



Can it now repeat that success at a global level? Traders in, say,

Frankfurt need to know what is happening in the London market because

London dominates European trading. But Americans tend to be

inward-looking and the Asians care more about Wall Street than the

City.



And there’s another problem - the Wall Street Journal. The Journal is

peerless in its own US market and has a huge lead over the FT in

Asia.



The Asian Wall Street Journal, launched in 1976, has a circulation of

53,000. And it does better in the FT’s backyard than the FT does in the

States - the European edition, launched in 1983, has a 65,000

circulation.



FT sources say the intention isn’t to go head-to-head with the Journal,

but won’t it really boil down to that? Not exactly, Andrew Gil-christ,

the managing director of Financial Times International, says. The Wall

Street Journal, in all formats, is firmly focused on things American,

whereas the FT offers an international approach.



He adds: ’For those who need genuine macro-economic business

perspectives we have an unrivalled offering. After London, New York is

our next largest circulation centre and we are strengthening that

position. For many senior businessmen, what is happening outside their

domestic market is at least as important as what happens inside. We know

we will not be the only paper people will take, but there is an

increasingly important potential for us in the States, particularly on

the Eastern seaboard.’



Some observers say the challenge is enormous. In Asia and the US, there

is a huge competition, not just from the Wall Street Journal but from a

whole spectrum of business and finance titles.



Iain Jacob, the director of international at Motive, believes the title

is too London-oriented. ’To break out of Europe, the FT will not only

have to lose its UK focus but find something distinctive that you can’t

get elsewhere,’ he says.



Mark Lund, the chief executive of Delaney Fletcher, not surprisingly,

disagrees. He says the product is already well placed. ’It is our job to

change perceptions. Those who think that it’s a UK-centred financial

paper are out of date. It is about business rather than narrow financial

concerns and it is about global business.



’It is the paper for the business nation - a club that transcends

nationality.



There are certainly plenty of internationally-minded people in Asia and

America,’ he says.



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