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Must-read for investors: The Financial Times

November 29, 2021

reading time: 5 minutes

by Renzo Ruf, guest author

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The bible of UK-style capitalism.

In the UK, the Financial Times is often referred to as “The Pink ‘Un”. Why? Because for almost 130 years, this London-based business newspaper has been printed on striking salmon pink-colored newsprint. Although experts disagree on the color: the Pantone Color Institute describes the FT newsprint as bisque, which is a very light shade of brown.

This is, of course, just a detail. And the good reputation enjoyed by the Financial Times among investors has nothing to do with the color of the paper, but with the work of its 700 journalists based in 40 countries. However, the fact that anyone even bothers to discuss such a detail is testimony that the FT has long succeeded in standing out from its paler competitors. It is therefore no wonder that the newspaper is often seen as the bible of UK-style capitalism.

Owned by a Japanese media group

However, even this long-standing and well-regarded paper has not been able to escape the structural changes that have taken place in the industry. The Financial Times is no longer truly a UK newspaper. For six years now, it has been owned by the Japanese media group Nikkei. And the FT no longer calls itself a newspaper, but a news organization, or in other words, an information service provider. According to the Financial Times, it had only 140 000 print subscriptions last year, but 960 000 subscribers to the digital edition. The latter have access, among other things, to one of five e-papers, tailored to the UK, Europe, the US, Asia, and the Middle East. (Because the FT has long had a hard paywall, only paying customers have access to its offering.)

Editor announces gentle course correction

The Financial Times: change in tone
The Financial Times: change in tone (KEYSTONE/AP Photo/Matt Dunham

The tone in which the FT reports on financial markets and economic policy has also changed. The paper is now more critical of the excesses of the free market. Under Editor Roula Khalaf, the first woman to head the FT, the Financial Times advocates greater regulation of technology companies and limits on executive pay, for example. “Just because we report on business and finance doesn’t mean we’re blind to the problems brought on by globalization and capitalism,” said the 56-year-old full-blooded journalist in a recent interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. Khalaf assumed her role as Editor at the beginning of last year, shortly before the pandemic paralyzed the global economy.

The strength of the Financial Times lies in reducing news to the essentials. (During the week, the printed edition of the newspaper often has less than 30 pages.) The FT almost never features seemingly never-ending articles, which are the norm in American newspapers, for example. Instead, it relies on succinctly worded pieces. And on analyses and commentaries by highly regarded liberal journalists such as Edward Luce (US National Editor), Gideon Rachman (Chief Foreign Affairs Commentator), Martin Wolf (Chief Economics Commentator) and Katie Martin (Markets Editor). The fact that the majority of these journalists are male is no coincidence. The Financial Times is considered a publication for men, and the majority of its readers are over 50 and wealthy. But Khalaf notes that this is changing: the editorial team is succeeding in correcting this imbalance and the number of female readers is increasing, she says.

The most popular lunch in town

One of the most popular sections of the Financial Times – among both male and female readers – is Lunch with the FT. Published every Saturday, it features conversations with a public figure, ideally held in a high-quality restaurant. (For fun, the FT also publishes the bill for the lunch). These interviews are also a popular platform. For example, the Financial Times recently spoke with Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla (cost of the lunch: almost 240 US dollars), the Italian politician Matteo Salvini (150 euro) and Credit Suisse Chairman António Horta-Osório (161.40 euro). There was no salmon served during any of these meals, however.

Photocredit: Coverpicture KEYSTONE/Gaetan Bally

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