Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
Arif Durrani, head of media at Campaign, editor of Media Week
A view from Arif Durrani

Reporters without borders for a global, mobile FT brand

As we head into a period a Norwegian friend of mine delightfully calls the "cucumber season" - due to all the filler stories about growing vegetables - there is still plenty that demands our attention.

Not least the small matter of the sale of a 127-year-old news brand for £844 million.

The Financial Times is rightly revered the world over for the quality of its journalism, and I am among those celebrating its hefty price tag: finally, a valuation of an old media asset that stacks up favourably against the stratospheric ones placed on far-less-proven tech-driven businesses.   

Being trusted and influential with the C-suite and steeped in heritage should count for something. And if there’s one culture that has proven time and again to truly value that as much as the British, it is the Japanese.

Nikkei’s flagship news brand is 12 years older than the FT and has more than three million subscribers. The Asian group is not driven solely by profit; as it is owned by employees, the focus is on providing news to the world – a set-up more akin to The Scott Trust’s remit to sustain The Guardian in perpetuity.

Commercially, the FT shifted its focus from regional to global sales last year and most of the publication’s 200 core advertisers are already global. If Nikkei can help further unlock Asian markets, it will only add to the operation.

'The speed with which it has morphed into a digital entity has won global admiration'

Of course, FT staff are right to seek further assurances of editorial independence, but Nikkei’s chairman, Tsuneo Kita, is making all the right overtures – even if he admits his English is not really good enough to read the title.

And therein lies another of the FT’s inherent strengths in the digital age: it has the good fortune of being written in the English language. Its liberal, pro-market outlook has travelled far better than any of its non-English rivals.

Strategically, the FT has much to be admired too. Having spent its first 115 years as a printed product, the speed with which it has morphed into a digital entity has won global admiration.

Eyebrows were raised when the newspaper’s then digital leader, Rob Grimshaw, told me three years ago that the brand would primarily be a digital mobile experience by the time of the next Olympics. But, a year away from Rio 2016, he looks to have been spot-on.

Almost half of the FT’s traffic is now through mobile devices and more people read it via mobiles with each passing day. And if you are a mobile-first global news organisation, who your owners are should matter less than how much they are willing to invest. But editorial integrity will always be paramount.

Read analysis: FT looks to Rising Sun as print sales decline