Media Power 50: Financial Times keeps focus on quality while driving digital innovation

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As the Financial Times celebrates its 125th anniversary, it is building on a brand known for quality coverage of global finance and policy while vigorously pursuing digital innovation. After deciding a few years ago to increase the share of revenue coming from its audience, Pearson-owned FT was generating 45% of its revenue from individual and corporate subscriptions on print and digital platforms by the end of 2012, up from 40% four years earlier. Meanwhile, FT's commitment to monetizing digital with two revenue streams—reader subscriptions and advertising—resulted in digital revenue representing 30% of the total by the end of last year, more than double the 14% that digital comprised in 2007. “There are essentially two daily newspaper brands when it comes to business,” said Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction. “The Wall Street Journal is the national one; FT is the global one.” Noting that FT's ongoing success comes from “old-fashioned principles like a strong positioning and a strong core product,” Kleinberg said, “It's obvious where to innovate when you know who you are and where you're going.” Eamonn Store, president-global solutions at MEC, said two attributes help FT stand out. “One is that the quality of their product is still very high at a time when the collective reporting of news around the world has become much faster and many gold-standard brands have suffered,” he said. “FT's editorial is probably just as strong as it was 125 years ago.” The second attribute is FT's ability to transform itself on digital platforms, Store said. was ahead of its time two years ago when it launched an HTML5 Web app for Apple's iPad to replace its early-to-market app in the iTunes store. Store said he has behind-the-scenes information on FT's next iteration for the tablet, due to come out sometime this year, and believes it “will push the boundaries of the tablet format further.” Andrew Sollinger, managing director-Americas at FT, declined to comment on future product introductions, but he said that FT's Web app, relaunched in March, “has lots of new features for advertisers, such as rich media-enabled full-page ads.” The Web app enables FT to track everything users do on all digital platforms, something publishers cannot do with a native app, Sollinger said. “With HTML5, we know exactly who is viewing each page and we can give marketers exceptional feedback,” he said, adding that campaign progress can be measured by such demographics as geography, job title, industry sector, time of day and ad unit.
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