Financial Times Takes Stock with a New Tool

Jun 01, 2010

The American newspaper industry has been struggling to define itself in recent years as its ink-and-paper readership has declined and the web has become the dominant medium for reaching an audience. While the vast majority of newspapers have established an online presence by posting their content online, turning the web into a viable business model has, thus far, been another story.

Across the pond, newspapers in the United Kingdom find themselves in the same boat. Like their stateside counterparts, British newspapers are eager to find tools that can paint a reliable picture of their day-to-day readership so that they can present advertisers-the financial engine of the newspaper industry-with the most comprehensive and relevant audience analysis possible.

The Financial Times is a London-based daily business newspaper, similar in content and readership to New York's Wall Street Journal. Anita Hague, the Global Research Director at the FT, says that the paper has been grappling with the question of how many total people read FT content every day, both in print and online, and who those people are. Hague felt the FT needed a tool that would provide a high level of transparency in audience measurement, assessing factors including geography and content channel, in order to best meet the needs of its advertisers.
"As no one source could provide us with the answer to this," Hague says, "we decided to develop our own model."

This model, which the FT has dubbed the Average Daily Global Audience (ADGA), was officially launched on May 12. ADGA uses a combination of sources in its assessment of the FT's readership. These include syndicated national and regional readership surveys, unique user and browser data, FT's own research based on large samples of its reader base, as well as circulation figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC), an international organization that measures publication circulations.

"The beauty of this tool is that it allows us to see how many people in each region use print or online-or indeed both-to read our content," Hague says. "It's totally transparent, easy-to-see, and takes out any duplication."

Naturally, since the FT was developing its own tool to gauge its audience, it was critical for the company to use outside experts to ensure the accuracy of the ADGA. So the newspaper turned to PricewaterhouseCoopers to provide independent assurance.

PricewaterhouseCoopers thoroughly analyzed all of the data sources that contributed to the ADGA measurement, according to Hague.

In developing ADGA, the FT is in part aiming to demonstrate its fortitude and relevance in an increasingly volatile media landscape. "It provides additional evidence that our daily audience, which includes the world's most powerful decision-makers, is growing strongly," said FT's Global Commercial Director and Deputy CEO, Ben Hughes.

The Financial Times has already utilized ADGA to analyze its readership in the months of May and November in 2009. The analysis showed positive growth over this period, from 1.8 million readers in May to 1.9 million readers in November.

The measurement and its methodology are also intended to instill confidence in the FT's ability to deliver an audience to its advertisers. James Jennings, Joint Managing Director of Maxus, a communications consultancy, called ADGA "an important step forward."

The FT's Hague believes that media companies must improve the tools they use to measure their audience if they want to sustain their long-term health. These tools should present a comprehensive picture of a publication's readership, not just a number.

"Having a consistent and transparent methodology is going to be an increasingly useful business tool for any media organization," Hague says. "It is also extremely helpful for advertisers, who ultimately are more interested in the quality of the audience rather than just the volume."

"But it also gives us the ability to understand our audience in much more detail," Hague says.