Commentary

'Financial Times' Job Cuts Reflect Shifting Business Priorities

The Financial Times is said to be planning job cuts as the business newspaper faces a loss for the year. The cost-saving move is an indication of shifting priorities for the Nikkei-owned publication as the pandemic adds to pressures on revenue.
The FT will eliminate as many as 64 jobs among its global workforce of 2,300. Nineteen of the jobs will be at FT Chinese, while 20 of its 700 journalist positions will be cut, the Press Gazette reported. The FT didn’t confirm the plans, which spurred a complaint from the National Union of Journalists, which represents media workers in the U.K., Ireland and parts of Europe.
“We condemn the FT’s moves to make staff redundant just before Christmas in what has been a year of massive uncertainty due to the pandemic," the union stated. "This contrasts starkly with the CEO’s reassurances this summer that no jobs would be lost during 2020.”
The job cuts came to light as the union protested against executive pay, including salary and severance package for Lionel Barber, the former editor in chief who left in January.
“The FT faces a substantial gender pay gap and most staff have had below-inflation pay rises for several years in a row," the union said, describing Barber's pay as "a slap in the face" to other workers.
“The pandemic has impacted some business lines permanently e.g. live events, so we are adapting accordingly," the FT said in a statement to the Press Gazette. "We intend to invest more in growth areas like the subscriptions business and digital events in 2021."
Subscriptions and digital events have been a common refrain among publishers during the pandemic, but for different reasons. The health crisis led to a steep pullback in ad spending that disproportionately affected print publications, though many publishers reported big jumps in digital revenue as readers spent more time online. Subscription revenue has provided a financial lifeline for many publishers; that is likely to grow as they harden online paywalls.
The pandemic has been more disruptive for live events, with a wide range of publishers canceling their in-person gatherings in favor of sponsored video conferences. Those virtual events will be commonplace until the pandemic subsides. Unfortunately, there is still considerable uncertainty about how mass vaccinations will be effective enough to end lockdowns in countries like the U.K. and make people feel more comfortable about traveling again.

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