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Van Hoen talks about plans for "Financial Times' " new U.S. conferences division Jayne Van Hoen stands at the helm of the Financial Times' U.S. conferences division, steering the latest launch in the diversification of the well-known pink newspaper. The global director of conferences and events will oversee an ambitious endeavor that could see the U.S. market generate as much as a quarter of the company's conference business in its first year, Van Hoen said last month when the company announced its plans. That announcement came on the heels of other initiatives, including the launch of the company's Middle East edition and the development of an online forum designed to create year-round communities for event attendees. “The Financial Times has been working behind the scenes the past few years, starting to build additional revenue streams to make sure when the downturn in advertising does come that you've got other parts of the business that can keep the profitability of the newspaper as a whole looking good,” Van Hoen said. She will oversee seven staffers in the New York office, building a U.S. portfolio that will include sponsored conferences, awards presentations and custom events. The company's global conference portfolio, last year valued at about $14 million, will grow this year to feature more than 50 events held in the U.S., Asia, Europe and the Middle East, Van Hoen said. The Financial Times has not projected the value of the U.S. market, she added. Van Hoen spoke with Media Business from her New York office. MB: What is fueling the decision to grow the conference business? Van Hoen: It's an attractive, high-margin business to get oneself into. We did some great things in Europe and the Middle East. Last year, we had a 100% increase in revenue and 72% increase in profitability since the previous year. We felt at that point that it was time to start developing and building out into the regions. We have an office in Hong Kong, and I came to the United States to spearhead the operation here. The profitability is very high around the conference business. The margins are reaching 40% to 45% around the core conference business—very helpful to the bottom line of the international corporation. MB: Your U.S. circulation is smaller than that of competitors like The Wall Street Journal. How do you create the brand awareness you need? Van Hoen: By partnering with relevant associations in that space, in combination with working with noncompetitive media owners to push out our messages. Typically when we market any event, we would go to all the big associations, and they would get a discount to attend our event. That's how we extend our reach into areas where we may not have as large a circulation as our competitors. It's all about building profile, building exposure, offering people the opportunity to view us not just as a newspaper but a content provider. MB: What distinguishes the Financial Times from its competitors? Van Hoen: The Financial Times has always been a global newspaper. With our conferences, we bring the global agenda to the space rather than making it regionalized. A lot of the stuff I have seen in the U.S. marketplace is very U.S.-centric. We have the very top speakers in every industry sector. The idea is to bring those people to the U.S. to provide case studies and analysis on their businesses so that we can change management, if you like. More global, bringing their U.K., their European, Middle East, China equivalent into the mix here, providing them with a forum to discuss and learn and, hopefully, do business as well.
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