Financial Times Asia boss: media agencies are still obsessed by volume, not by data

Angela MackayThe Asia head of the Financial Times has said that the famous pink paper is still wary of automated trading – because it could devalue its content.

Angela Mackay, FT Asia’s managing director, also said that print “has a future” and the media owner is working on plans to return its paper operations to profit this year by increasing its cover price.

“We think that print really has got a future at the FT,” she said.

“Just under 300,000 people pay for our paper every day,” said Mackay, who was speaking at the AdTech conference in Singapore.

However, last year the title reached a tipping point in digital – the FT now has more digital subscribers than print, with 304,000 digital compared to 298,000 print subscribers.

“Raising our cover price has been controversial. But by next year, we want all of our print sites to break even and be in profit,” said the former journalist, who has been with the FT for a decade.

The most effective marketing tool the paper has is its colour – the famous pink, she said. “The pink paper is the strongest marketing tool we have globally, and it promotes our digital offering and helps keep it from slipping into the ether.”

On automated media trading, Mackay said that thought testing had been done in the area, the jury was still out on whether or not it would work for the brand.

“We’ve got an open mind. What we don’t want to happen is the pricing to go through the floor. We want a pricing floor we can be proud of, and ensure our content is not undersold.”

“My reservation is that we don’t get a big enough slice of the pie. There are a lot of people in this space trying to make a living. By the time it gets to our slice, will we have starved to death?”

Testing in automated trading will continue over the next six to 12 months, she said.

Mackay bemoaned the loss of revenue and data to third party sites such as Factiva and Lexus Nexus, which prompted the launch of a corporate license business-to-business model.

“Why should they get our data and our revenue? Readers can still access our data and our product through third parties,” she said.

The launch of the FT’s HTML web app 2.0 has been a “critical fork in the road” to bring in new revenue and shore up company data, she said.

These corporate licenses are the backbone of the FT’s B2B business now, she added.

“There is so much hidden value in data. When I joined the FT ten years ago, we had no data scientists. They were working purely on slicing and dicing media research.”

“Now they’re at the heart of everything we do. They’re the DNA of our business. We crack codes to sell content and advertising,” she said.

“Media agencies are still obsessed by volume, they’re not impressed by data analytics,” she said.

Talking about the FT’s Chinese language website,, Mackay said that the title has amassed 2m digital users through online and mobile channels, and is looking to launch a subscription service in 2014.

“We weren’t able to bring the paper in, so we brought in a website,” she said.

“As we’ve become more sophisticated, so has China. The Chinese authorities have become more sophisticated at how they look at content on foreign owned sites. They block individual stories, rather than the entire site.”


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