The recession and financial crisis are finally over – not my words, but rather those of the Financial Times’ editor, Lionel Barber. A series of macro indicators were behind his declaration, not least the fact that the eurozone has avoided the complete meltdown many had feared.
Hosting his summer party in the newly opened Banking Hall in the heart of the City last week was a statement of intent, if ever there was one. Yet Barber did not sugar-coat the "wrenching change" his own business is having to navigate.
Quite what his guests – including Prince Andrew, Liberty’s Shami Chakrabarti and the BBC’s creative director, Alan Yentob – made of his update since the FT’s move to one global edition this spring is anyone’s guess. At least Ed Miliband looked slightly more comfortable than he did promoting The Sun days earlier.
Now in its 126th year, the Pink ’Un is pursuing an entirely different approach to global expansion from the advertising-led models of MailOnline and The Guardian. The emphasis is on paying subscribers, of which the FT now has 665,000. Online subs make up two-thirds of the total paying audience, and around half of all traffic is coming via mobile devices.
People paying for content account for more than 63 per cent of the FT’s total revenues. It means readers have been spared the clickbait headlines infecting most publishers online, all desperate to scale for advertisers.
'The FT benefits from its specialist content and has been leveraging it through sponsored supplements'
Becoming less reliant on the ad market, which used to represent the lion’s share of the business at the pre-recessionary FT, has been a smart move. National newspaper ads fell 8 per cent last year and nearly 30 per cent since the recession began. A further decline of 6 per cent is expected for 2014.
Of course, the FT benefits from its specialist content and has been leveraging it through sponsored supplements long before BuzzFeed came to town.
Barber now talks of "a new age of journalism" and "a world of text-plus", where aggregation and the interpretation of data and video will play a bigger role.
Having spoken to FT journalists about the transition, the past few months have clearly been challenging, but they all convey a shared determination and vision that, in this current climate and post-restructure, is no mean feat.