Tag Archives: Financial Times
by Chris Roush
In a week of overwhelming coverage of the first issue of new business magazine Conde Nast Portfolio, the Financial Times weighs in with the observation that business has become an overwhelming part of our everyday lives.
The FT stated, “‘Business has an enormous impact on society at large, on the culture, and so what we wanted to do was create a magazine that really connected the dots,’ said Ms Lipman, the new magazine’s editor.
“As such, the debut issue’s cover does not feature 10 top investments or the usual brash chief executive boasting about increased margins.
“Rather, it is a gold-hued photograph of Manhattan that makes the city glow as if it were illuminated by bankers’ bonuses. Inside, there is a scholarly feature from Tom Wolfe about the vulgarity of the new hedge fund elite in Greenwich, Connecticut, and another about the ruler of Dubai’s secretive plans for the world’s horseracing market.
“‘Once you start following business, it really is great dramas played out on a large stage. It’s not just what happens in a boardroom that affects you as a shareholder or as an employee. There’s much larger significance,’ Ms Lipman said.
“She suggested that the culture had changed from her early days at the Journal in the 1980s when ‘there was business and then there was the rest of your life’.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
John Burke, writing on the Editors Weblog site about the European Business Press seminar earlier this week in Paris, talks about the trends affecting the industry across the pond.
Of particular interest to U.S. business sections and newspapers is the move by the Financial Times to combine its online and print newsrooms into one operation.
Burke wrote, “Having lost a lot of money in its original attempts to ‘integrate’ its newsroom, The Financial Timesâ€™ Managing Editor, Dan Bogler, said that the paperâ€™s New Newsroom was working out well. Last July, the paper officially launched fully integrated staff and systems, fitting ft.com reporters into the print functions and vice versa. The team implemented ‘storybuilding,’ meaning that in the morning, a few paragraphs of breaking news are posted to the paperâ€™s website and followed up on throughout the day, eventually resulting in a complete, analytical piece for the following dayâ€™s print version. Heads of sections are now responsible for both print and online content and many journalists have embraced blogs. As for multimedia production, the FT has mostly kept a team apart figuring that writers needed time to write and video journalists should specialize in doing video interviews.
“The integration wasnâ€™t all peaches and cream: 50 voluntary redundancies were offered at the start of the project and journalists were almost forced to work three early morning shifts per month. But Bogler said that the paper cut too deep and has since rehired 5 or 6 of the eliminated positions. He also mentioned that the paper has eased off on its early morning demands and that certain journalists have actually volunteered to come in early more often than not, creating an early morning team and providing continuity in the dayâ€™s first content.”
by Chris Roush
Former Bloomberg News writer Jonathan Berr, writing on the BloggingStocks.com web site, said he’s not surprised that Dow Chemical is denying reports that it is about to be sold. The rumor was first reported by a British tabloid.
Berr wrote, “The U.K.’s Sunday Express, which reported the story, first disclosed these rumors in February.
“Whenever investors see reports about mergers, acquisitions or buyouts, they need to consider the source. News organizations such as The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Bloomberg News or the Financial Times are very careful about printing stories about potential mergers and acquisitions. I don’t remember a situation where a story where a story from these sources was flatly denied.
“Remember that investment bankers use the business press all of the time to promote deals that they are working or would like to work on. This is like the child’s game Whisper Down the Lane. Someone talks to someone else about a possible deal which becomes a potential deal than a likely deal. Eventually. people aren’t sure how the rumor started in the first place.
“But before you discount this story entirely, remember that the Sunday Express didn’t come up with this idea by itself. Maybe this was a trial balloon floated by a banker or public relations person. I have no idea whether Dow management has ever spent one second even considering a buyout.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Financial Times reporter Aline van Duyn reports that Thomson Financial is planning a wire news service that would compete with Bloomberg News and Reuters.
Van Duyn wrote, “Thomson Financial, part of Thomson, the electronic publishing business, is building a global network on the back of AFX, the European news service it bought for an estimated $20m last year.
“Since then Thomson has invested heavily in editorial staff, and employs about 500 reporters, around double the number a year ago.
“Recent bureaus have opened in Lisbon, Vienna, Budapest and Warsaw, and more are planned.”‘We always felt that providing news was critical,’ said Sharon Rowlands, president and chief executive of Thomson Financial. She declined to disclose the size of the investment.
“‘Three or four years ago it would have cost us $250m and taken five years to develop. Developments in technology and the easy availability of information like corporate earnings releases have allowed us to do it for much less,’ she said in an interview with the FT.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Shares of Pearson Plc, the parent of financial newspaper Financial Post, rose amid speculation that it’s a potential takeover target, according to a Reuters story.
The Reuters story stated, “‘The credit default swaps have been widening on Pearson and this is a lead indicator of takeover speculation,’ said ABN AMRO analyst Paul Gooden.
“A spokeswoman for Pearson said the London-based company never commented on market speculation.
“At 0957 GMT, shares in Pearson were up 1.4 percent at 823-1/2 pence, the best performance among UK media stocks at a time when the Dow Jones Stoxx media index was unchanged.
“Potential bid interest has underpinned Pearson’s shares in recent months, particularly in the run-up to last month’s results amid speculation of a potential leveraged buyout or possible move by Chief Executive Marjorie Scardino who has been running the company for 10 years.”
Read more here.
The Financial Times, which earlier had questioned whether to charge for access to its online news articles and data, is sticking to requiring that people subscribe to its web site, according to a story in the Guardian.
The paper, which has 90,000 online subscribers compared to more than 800,000 for the Wall Street Journal, likes those “rarefied” customers of business news.
Richard Wray wrote, “Chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino, announcing a strong 19% rise in annual profits to Â£502m, admitted that FT.com is likely to continue to rely on subscriptions, retaining its so-called ‘chargewall’. ‘As debate online has become more diffuse – hundreds of thousands or millions of voices on each topic – it has become less helpful in a way,’ she said. ‘The trend now seems to be some sort of mediation and we think we might have a role there.’
“Her comments represent a U-turn. At the time of the company’s interim results in July she voiced concerns that the FT’s ability to take part in the online debate was being hampered by subscription rates. But yesterday she said that the 90,000 subscribers to FT.com represent a ‘rarefied audience’ including senior figures in business and politics. ‘We have found that to some extent with the quality of audience we have got we can provoke the discussion’. ‘This is not a typical online discussion where people do not reveal who they are,’ she said of some recent FT.com forums.
“Last year the Financial Times newspaper and website saw profits jump by Â£9m to Â£11m due to rising advertising and a raft of cost cuts – including axing 50 journalists and the creation of an integrated web and newspaper newsroom.”
Read more here. Registration is required.
Marjorie Scardino, the head of the parent company of the Financial Times business newspaper, refused to answer questions about her future or the future of the company on Monday when it released its earnings.
Chris Tryhorn of the Guardian newspaper in England wrote, “Asked if she would still be at the group in a year’s time, the Pearson chief executive said these were ‘exciting’ times for the publishing industry.
“‘If you look at what’s happening in our market and what we are doing in it, it’s hard to think why anybody would not be enjoying this, and I surely am.’
“Ms Scardino has now clocked up 10 years as Pearson’s chief executive and last month turned 60, renewing speculation about her future.
“Chairman Glen Moreno has hinted that he is in no rush to see Ms Scardino depart, telling journalists at last year’s annual general meeting, ‘The succession is not a short-term issue at Pearson.’
“Today Ms Scardino, who famously once said she would sell the FT ‘over my dead body’, declined to comment on the paper’s future.
“‘We wouldn’t be discussing it publicly were we planning to sell it or not,’ she said. ‘It has the best team in newspapering and we’re very proud of what they’re doing.’”
Read more here.
The Financial Times, which itself has been the speculation of buyout talk in recent years, apparently could be on the verge of acquiring the 50 percent of regarded magazine The Economist it doesn’t already own, according to a story on the British web site This is Money.
Pearson Plc is the parent of the FT and would actually be the one doing the acquiring.
James Ashton of the Daily Mail wrote, “Established in 1843 by Scottish hatmaker James Wilson, sales of The Economist have doubled to more than 1m in the last decade after US readership took off.
“Pearson stepped in to rescue the title when it almost went bust 80 years ago.
“But its early woes are a far cry from the annual profit of Â£24m it made in 2005, far in excess of the FT’s skimpy Â£2m.
“Insiders say that earnings are likely to leap to Â£40m in the next few years. It also owns the lucrative freehold to its shiny St James’s headquarters. In addition, there is more value in its consultancy arm, the Economist Intelligence Unit.
“With numbers like these doing the rounds, investors may question why Pearson values its 50% stake at just Â£79m in its books.
“FT Group boss Rona Fairhead is keen to tidy up ownership of assets, including The Economist stake. Investors think the FT division itself could eventually be sold or spun off from Pearson (up 5p at 828Â½p yesterday). Carlyle is among private equity buyers thought to have recently run the slide rule over the Pink ‘Un.”
Read more here.
TheStreet.com’s Marek Fuchs reads the coverage in Friday morning’s papers about Microsoft Corp. losing a ruling on MP3 patents and being asked to pay $1.52 billion in damages and wonders what all of the fuss is about.
Fuchs wrote, “The Washington Post goes all subjective on The Business Press Maven, announcing that ‘Microsoft Loses Big in MP3 Patent Suit.’ The subheadline starts right in on the ominous larger implications: ‘$1.52 Billion Penalty Could Be Harbinger.’
“The first sentence tells us that hundreds of companies use the technology in question and the second raises the prospect that scores of other companies could be similarly liable. The all-important third sentence, with that first defining quote, talks about the great concern that so many companies besides Microsoft must have. That quote, by the way, is from one of Microsoft counsels, who is obviously trying to rally other companies to his cause by scaring the bejesus out of them. However, that does not have to define the story, especially because it’s about an issue that can be turned on appeal (many patents cases are) or could end up with some relatively modest royalty payments all around.
“Unfortunately, The Washington Post’s stance is echoed all over the place, with restraint in short supply. The Financial Times speaks in its first sentence of ‘sweeping implications.’ The Wall Street Journal, for its part, goes with ‘broad-impact’ in its subheadline.”
Concluded Fuchs: “‘Take in stride.’ It should be the mantra — painted on the forehead, if must be — of any business journalist assigned to write about big business law cases. Investors, do your friendly neighborhood Business Press Maven a favor. Take such news in stride when the business media fail to.”
Read more here.
Hope Heyman has more than 25 years experience in corporate communications and public relations, specializing in media relations. She serves as the chief media strategist for a number of financial, corporate and health services companies as the senior vice president in Edelman’s New York Office.
Before entering public relations, Hope was a reporter and writer working for Institutional Investorâ€™s Wall Street Letter, where she covered the institutional equity side of the street, and the U.S. equity-oriented exchanges.
Talking Biz News discussed the current relationship between business journalists and public relations professionals with Heyman. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.
1. What do you think is the current relationship between PR people and business journalists?
I think it’s becoming a more distant relationship, at least for PR people working for agencies, with fewer face-to-face meetings or even phone calls as both PR practitioners and journalists communicate exclusively via e-mail. This diminished interaction is probably due to the rising work load for business journalists as more newspapers, business magazines and other hard-pressed print media cut back on the number of reporters, and reporters increasingly must meet the needs of a 24-hour cycle demanded by online news. The relationship between internal public relations professionals working for major corporations and the press remains mostly the same, with the top-tier media making a point of getting to know the internal PR people as the gateway to securing management interviews, and internal PR people making sure they have met, or are in touch with on a fairly regular basis, the reporters that cover their industry both in the trade and top-tier business media.
However, during the past two decades fewer journalists seem to be entering public relations as a second career, and fewer public relations firms are hiring practitioners with a journalism background, and I believe this trend has had a major impact on the relationships. This is a loss. Former reporters are particularly good at counseling clients on strategies involving how to put their best foot forward when approaching the media; and reporters sometimes find themselves being pitched by junior public relations people who don’t understand the needs and deadlines of the press.
I also find that fewer younger people overall (not just in public relations) actually read a newspaper unless they are required to do so. They prefer to “consume” their news online from papers’ websites, or Googling things, which leads to a lot of errors, and in my view helps to erode the distinctions between what makes a story important — front page above the fold — and what makes a good second day story, feature or follow-up story. What has not changed, unfortunately, is that media relations is not valued at many large public relations agencies. (I like to think that my agency is very different, with media relations considered a key skill at all levels, reflected in the considerable resources committed to both training junior staff and to hiring experienced practitioners.)
The responsibility to call the media is sometimes handed off to younger people with guidance or support — which is why extremely busy, experienced senior reporters working on deadline still receive annoying phone calls from youngsters asking, “Did you receive my press release?”
2. How could it be improved?
In terms of the media, I would say that a good story can come from anywhere — but good reporters already know that. Meetings and phone calls with experienced PR people is not a waste of time. Sometimes a good story results.
On the PR side, it’s clear that young people need to be better trained about how to approach journalists, and how to get them what they need when they are writing a story about a client. Too often the practice of media relations has been left to instinct vs. a more cohesive training approach with nurturing and coaching. Young people need to think in terms of “story” vs. a product pitch; and trends vs. “getting my client into print.”
It is also a PR person’s responsibility to know as much as possible about a client’s business or the field, even if the account is new, and get up to speed as quickly as possible, so he or she is not suggesting stories already well covered by the media. A PR professional should also try to get the press as much information as possible before any interview, and make best efforts to provide the press with desired interviews.
A PR person should not be afraid to say “I don’t know,” but the second part of that sentence should be “let me see what I can find out — what’s your deadline?”
3. When business journalists complain about not getting the information they need for a story from a company, do they often have a valid complaint?
Sometimes they do. Keep in mind, however, that public relations agencies/internal people are only as good as their corporate bosses. If the CEO or the head of marketing makes the decision not to release information, the PR advisor can try to persuade him or her, but ultimately has to line up with that corporate decision. I think Kurt Eichenwald’s Enron book, “Conspiracy of Fools,” illustrates the great efforts that some PR people make to convince management to release critical information and to be open and honest with the press, and how sometimes that advice is ignored to the detriment of the company, its shareholders and other stakeholders.
On the other hand, a good reporter should be able to find out much of what he or she needs to know by good old-fashioned reporting — picking up the phone, talking to sources, reading public documents, talking to industry competitors, executives who have left the company, etc. And some reporters still use an old reporter’s trick: call the CEO early in the morning before the assistant or other gatekeeper comes in and ask your questions. As a PR practioner, I’m not advocating that approach (always go through the PR person), but as a former reporter, I know it sometimes works.
4. What are some of the things that business journalists do that bother PR people?
Speaking as a PR practitioner, three things bother me the most: 1. only covering the largest companies, and disregarding good story ideas from companies they may not have heard of before or smaller companies; 2. In response to a pitch e-mail or call from me (not from my client), taking the story idea, but bypassing me completely and contacting the client directly, and 3. cleaving to the view that if a story idea originates from a PR person, it can’t be very good; is slanted; and not worthy of consideration.
At least to me, all other business journalist practices are fair game. I trust reporters’ mission to get it fast; get it right; and get it first.
5. Are they justified in doing some of those things?
In terms of not covering a story idea, I realize that the print news hole is shrinking, and the shrinking pool of reporters has to concentrate on the biggest story ideas — which generally apply to very large, publicly owned companies. But a few reporters do not take the time to consider a story idea, and do not have an open mind for new stories, or “stray” from conventional stories. It is also true that a PR professional is seeking favorable coverage for his or her clients, and so is, of course, pitching story ideas that focus on positive aspects of a client’s businesses. That doesn’t make a story any less newsworthy. (more…)