Dead Trees and Pink – How the FT is Bucking the Trend

Heard the one about the newspaper editor who is putting sale onto his circulation?

No joke, honest.

Check the date – April Fool’s Day isn’t until tomorrow.

It’s true, one editor of a UK national, some would argue international, stands alone in watching his global sales rise from 426,000 in 2006 to a little under 450,000 today.

To cap it all, its website is also on the rise from 4.4m in 2006 to 6.2m unique users now.

Yet because he’s not boss of a paper like The Sun, Mirror or Mail or even other broadsheet rivals like The Guardian or Times, Lionel Barber is achieving all this with very little fanfare.

So it made pretty compelling reading when a rare interview appeared in the Observer’s business and media section yesterday with the man working wonders for the institution that is the Financial Times.

It was refreshing to hear of someone at a senior newspaper level talking about “the return of competitive politics” in the UK and strengthening coverage of events rather than personalities.

But more so of his attitude to newsgathering.

He spoke of writing stories that are “believable” and “authoritative” dismissing speculation so content in the Pink ‘Un will be viewed always as “fact, reliable and accurate”.

Something that once came as standard in journalism before the need to try and boost sales with shallow PR inspired showbiz and reality TV shows was allowed to start ruling the roost.

And as news groups still struggle to come to terms with the potential of online, as websites bed in and the public and advertisers try to decide which they really prefer, Barber is content to push the traditional newspaper for all it is worth.

He still believes there is plenty of life in newsprint, buying him and his team much needed time to grow its web content at a speed which suits without fear of the monthly numbers.

He told the Observer: “When I came back to this country everyone was writing off newspapers, saying newspapers are “dead trees”. ‘Now they’re not.
“There’s a value in newspaper; it’s a different reading experience. Our newspaper sales have gone up, not down.
“If print sales are going to fall off a cliff we’re not going to sit there and hope we’re Wile E Coyote. We will adjust. But they’re not collapsing yet.”

To be fair on other editors, his title holds a very different position to other broadsheets and the tabs in that it essentially a niche publication for a specialist group.

But wouldn’t it be great if such faith in values, standards and readers could be applied elsewhere too?



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