The Financial Times (or the FT in common parlance) has long been the newspaper of choice of the business classes. But even in its print heyday its circulation was never huge – somewhere north of 400,000 for most of the 2000-2010 period, far less than rivals like the Daily Telegraph or The Times. Today it still sells around 200,000 copies a day and its pink pages still signify the seriousness of the reader. But in reality the FT is no longer a newspaper: it’s a digital subscription business. And its success has been driven by a focus on a single ‘North Star’ metric – engagement.
Back in 2016, “we set ourselves a challenge to reach a million paying subscribers, and we aimed to get there by 2020,” Cait O’Riordan, the FT’s chief product and innovation officer, told The Digital Transformation Conference (London, May 2019). “Just a couple of weeks ago, we hit that target, more than a year ahead of schedule,” she reported. The title now has more than one million subscribers, of which 822,000 are digital-only.