Monday, February 11, 2013

Editor tells FT journalists he's cutting jobs to secure a 'world class, financially sustainable news organisation'

The Financial Times is cutting 35 journalists from its staff as it shifts to a strategy which puts the web ahead of its newspaper.

In an email to staff, editor Lionel Barber says that net reduction in editorial staff numbers would be about 25 people 'after the introduction of 10 more digital jobs.'

"We need to ensure that we are serving a digital platform first, and a newspaper second. This is a big cultural shift for the FT that is only likely to be achieved with further structural change," he said.

In an earlier message to staff, Barber had said that 2013 would test the newspaper's resolve to move further and faster to support top quality journalism in a rapidly changing media landscape.

"I now want to set out in detail how we propose to reshape the FT for the digital age. We need to do less in certain areas and more in others, we need to be much more nimble, and we need to reshape our teams.

"Today we have started consultations with the NUJ with the aim of opening up an initial voluntary redundancy scheme. The intention is is to reduce the cost of producing the newspaper and give us the flexibility to invest more online.

"Our common cause is to secure the FT's future in an increasingly competitive market, where old titles are being routinely disrupted by new entrants such as Google and LinkedIn and Twitter.

"The FT's brand of accurate, authoritative journalism can thrive, but only if it adapts to the demands of our readers in digital and in print, still a vital source of advertising revenues," he said in the email sent on January 21st 2013.

Barber revealed that a visit to Silicon Valley had convinced him of the speed of change, with competitors harnessing technology to revolutionise the news business through aggregation, personalisation and social media.  "It would be reckless for us to stand still."

"Of course, we must stick to the tested practices of good journalism: deep and original reporting based on multiple sources and a sharp eye for the scoop.

"But we must also recognise that the internet offers new avenues and platforms for the richer delivery and sharing of information. We are moving from a news business to a networked business," he continued.

The paper will now shift resource from night work and from print to digital.

"I am determined that we do everything we can to secure the FT's future as a world class, financially sustainable news organisation.

"Our earlier decisions to raise prices, charge for content, and build a subscription business have proven to be bold and wise.

"While many of our rivals have struggled to find a profitable business model, and have therefore announced heavy job losses, we have been industry pioneers. This is not the moment to falter," said Barber.

He is now seeking to introduce a number of changes aimed at reducing the resource needed to produce the newspaper so that, despite the reduction in staff numbers, more people can work on the web. Those changes include:
  • Common ad shapes across editions to reduce the number of 'tweaks' made to pages
  • A more common international edition with common fronts and second fronts (ie far fewer changes in editions)
  • A restriction in the number of changes between two US editions
  • A 'paring back' of the UK 3rd edition
  • Tighter control of pagination (ie fewer pages)
"We must rethink how we publish our content, when and in what form, whether conventional news, blogs, video or social media," he said.

In common with all newspaper companies moving to a 'digital first' strategy - recognising that online revenues are almost always smaller than print revenues around news - the changes are designed to create savings, about £1.6m a year in the case of the FT.

"This will be an opportunity for all of us to think harder about a more dynamic and inter-active form of FT journalism beyond the printed word. This is vital to drive deeper engagement with readers and build our subscriptions business," he added.

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