In Circ: Greg Zorthian, global circulation director, Financial Times

In addition to boosting its digital efforts (as reported in DMNews), the Financial Times has upped its print circulation. The paper reported a 5.19% month-on-month circulation increase for October, for average daily sales of 451,676. DMNews caught up with Greg Zorthian, global circulation director for the Financial Times (FT), to discuss circ increases and the role of the Web in the magazine business.

DM: Do you credit anything in particular for your recent increases in circulation?
GZ: We certainly credit the economic crisis for driving demand. People, in times of uncertainty, look for a reliable source of information, and it demonstrates how they look at the FT. We were also able to put out extra copies to satisfy demand and increase our supply to retail channels in the UK and US.

DM: What has been your marketing approach?
GZ: We’ve stayed true to our strategy of going after quality readers and quality circulation. When times get tough, publishers sometimes back away from investing in their readership, but we have continued that investment. We’ve also been somewhat aggressive in our pricing. You’d think that would be contradictory, but the demand continues to be very strong, and in some places it’s grown. We were at our all-time retail high in October in the US.

DM: How do you target your key readers?
GZ: We’ve invested over the years in trying to model who is the perfect FT reader, and these models are based on current subscribers, outside demographic lists, ZIP codes and a little bit of alchemy. We rely extensively on that model to help direct marketing because it allows us to go to a broader array of mailing lists and extend the potential universe of subscribers and readers.

DM: Who are these “perfect” readers?
GZ: It varies a little bit from region to region, but in the US, it’s anyone whose job and life encompass a global perspective. It could be someone in the financial industry, someone working at Exxon or doing international licensing at Warner Bros. — any job that requires a global understanding of how the world is interrelated.

DM: The FT is focusing a lot on digital – what does that mean for print, and how do they affect each other?
GZ: I get asked that a lot. Digital is our friend, and that’s true in many ways. We’ve begun to use digital as a marketing tool for the newspaper, and online is the largest source of new subscribers for the FT in the US — larger than direct mail or any other source. It has created a whole new market segment. We cross-promote, and we use electronic renewals and billing, so we’ve really embraced the Web. It’s also helped us distribute in hard-to-reach places, where we can’t get the paper there in one day.  

DM: What are some future growth areas for the FT?
GZ: When the time is right, we feel there’s still growth in the US. Clearly, with the ad market the way it is, we want to be selective in putting more copies out, so we’re looking at a lot of things in electronics. We are on the Kindle as of August 2008. We’re willing to try new technology and see how we can use it to grow the franchise. We are platform-agnostic — we want people to buy the FT in any way they want.

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