Greg Zorthian does not necessarily want to print more newspapers.
The global circulation director named president of the Americas by The Financial Times in January sees the big picture: Advertising has gone soft even as demand for financial news has increased.
“We tend to temper that demand by raising prices,” he said. “We look at our current base and, if we're having a tough time getting advertising, we don't want to print more papers unless they're profitable. It's a quality audience. We have raised both subscription and retail rates. We have the reader share more of the cost of the content.”
Readers have accepted the change, he said.
“What has made us happy is, even in this recession, our response rates continue to be strong,” he said. “I've been through a couple of recessions. You usually see a decline in the renewal and response rates. We haven't seen that here.”
He attributes that success to the paper's ability to deliver timely and relevant content. “If [we] assume the content is valuable, we believe people will pay a premium for it,” he said. “We've raised prices, and we see that people still want the content. We've been gratified to see that strategy pan out.”
Global circulation numbers dipped to 433,000 through January 2009, a 4.3% drop from the previous year, according to Audit Bureau of Circulations reports. Zorthian, who has grown U.S. circulation and increased global revenue since he took on the role of global circulation director in 2007, attributed the drop to a decision to push back a marketing initiative.
The news organization has put its belief that readers will pay for content to the test on the Web as well—a growth area not reflected in the Audit Bureau numbers. Its Web site lures readers with a limited number of free articles, then requires registration—and eventual subscription—for continued access. The model has helped the company more than double its number of registered users to 1 million in the past year, Zorthian said.
When the financial crisis began last year, it delivered even more traffic, he said.
Last month, the Financial Times introduced m.ft.com, a Web site with content optimized for mobile devices. The company made its U.S. edition available on Amazon's Kindle last year, and has also signed on to provide content for Plastic Logic's eReader, a tablet-sized digital reading device set to debut next year.
“We're agnostic when it comes to how people read us, as long as they buy us and read us in any format,” Zorthian said. “We're exploring all different ways of delivering our content. That's a priority for us.”
Zorthian will coordinate operations in the United States and represent the region's position in London, he said. He will work with a sales team that is focused on integrating platforms and other sales opportunities across both Financial Times and Money-Media, a U.S.-based online content provider that the company acquired in January 2008.
He expects growth: “We're bullish about the long term for the Financial Times.” M