FT editor: “News now is not the newspaper”

The Financial Times: It is perhaps not a surprise to hear but Financial Times editor Lionel Barber, talking about the digital revolution at the paper, put it quite starkly in the Observer yesterday as he said that news was not now in the paper — that was the job of the web.

Barber’s comments follow the unveiling of the FT’s digital first strategy last month, which will cut 35 jobs and relegate newspapers to second place.

It all comes as speculation about a sale of the Financial Times continues to circulate. Barber said the changes were needed to secure the paper’s future as “old titles” like the FT were being “routinely disrupted by new entrants such as Google, LinkedIn and Twitter”.

Most newspapers still feature news heavily on the first few pages, but as with weekly magazines the function of this has been slowly changing over the paper couple of years.

Where it still works is, of course, with exclusives and deeper investigation pieces, but general news feels old and stale by the time it hits print after a day on the web.

“Our business is changing. We don’t need to update the paper through the night, so we don’t need so many people working anti-social hours producing a newspaper for real-time news. That’s the equivalent of the steam age. News is now updated on the website.”

“News now is not the newspaper, but papers still need a sense of timeliness and relevance, and also urgency – but you don’t need to do that through publishing what happened incrementally at 11 o’clock last night in London. It’s about sheer good reporting or providing under-reported material, and display can convey urgency.

“While the web is very much the first draft of history, a rough-cut, it still has to be good journalism, well-sourced, reliable. Clearly, the printed form is going to have more effort put into it, going to be more reflective and relevant,” Barber told the Observer.

Barber’s comments come ahead of the launch of an innovation called Fast FT later this year, which will comprise “short, sharp, informed takes on market-breaking news or market developments”.

An FT Weekend app is also being planned.