April 4, 2019 / 5:16 PM / 15 days ago

Polarized U.S. politics offers opportunity for the Financial Times, says CEO

LONDON (Reuters) - The polarization of U.S. politics in the Trump era has created an opportunity for the Financial Times to attract readers who want balanced coverage with a global perspective, the London-based business newspaper’s chief executive said on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The cover of the Financial Times newspaper is seen with other papers at a news stand in New York, U.S., November 9, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/File Photo

John Ridding said the FT, acquired by Japanese media group Nikkei for $1.3 billion in 2015, is increasing investment in the United States, along with China and India, after it reached the milestone of 1 million paying readers this week, a year ahead of target.

“I think we are underweight in the U.S.,” Ridding told Reuters. “We can and should be bigger. Clearly there has been a polarization in the media in the U.S, alongside and probably contributing to a polarization in politics.

“There is a huge opportunity for what we do, which is independent, fair, balanced coverage.”

Ridding said the company would be bringing new products to the U.S. market and would add more reporters.

The FT, famously printed on pink paper, became one of the first newspapers to charge for its content online when it introduced a pay wall in 2002.

It established a metered model in 2007, requiring users to register and pay a charge to read more than a few articles a month before moving to a paid-trial model in 2015, which allows access to most articles for a relatively small fee.

Digital subscribers now account for more than three quarters of its circulation.

Ridding said customer data had helped the newspaper to exceed its subscriber target, in part by offering easy tools for readers to curate what was of interest to them, adding that both consumer and corporate subscriptions are showing healthy growth.

“In the B2B (business to business) side ... revenue retention is above 100 percent and volume retention is near 100 percent,” he said. “That has been a big part of our success, the institutional part of the business.”

Despite the growth in digital revenue, Ridding said the FT still had a future in print. It had a circulation of 171,459 in January, according to ABC data quoted by Press Gazette.

Ridding said the print product is profitable on its cover price before advertising - a rare feat in the newspaper market.

“I would certainly hesitate to write off print in the near term,” he said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Goodman

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