Our History 1: Nikkei Acquires Financial Times (FT)
The acquisition of the UK-based FT Group by Nikkei Inc. created one of the world's largest business media groups. It was a bold and unprecedented move for Nikkei, and it represented a response to a rapidly changing media and technology landscape. The acquisition would help Nikkei implement new "digital" and "global" management strategies, bringing together two of the world's most trusted business news voices in an era marked by a new demand for quality information. With both parties sharing important values and outlooks yet maintaining distinctive aspects, a productive and game-changing relationship was forged.
Striding Squarely into the Future
On July 23, 2015, Nikkei announced that it would acquire the FT Group from Pearson, a publishing and education company. The FT Group was the publisher of the Financial Times (FT), the UK's leading business newspaper. This merger of the top economic media voices in Japan and Britain would create the world's largest business media group. The news caused an enormous sensation and was widely reported around the world.
The move represented an entirely new development for Nikkei. To begin with, it was the first time that Nikkei had ever acquired a foreign company. Although we had invested in companies as a minority shareholder before, we had never taken control of a company. Moreover, the acquisition price was 160 billion yen, which was a far cry from the hundreds of millions to billions of yen that we had invested in other companies in the past. It was not only Nikkei's largest acquisition ever - it was also the largest acquisition of a foreign company by a Japanese media corporation in history.
Toward Truly Global Media
One of the reasons why Nikkei decided to take on such a significant challenge was the fact that the traditional newspaper business in Japan had been reaching its limits. In search of new growth areas, Nikkei launched the Nikkei Online Edition in 2010 and initiated full-scale digitalization. In the overseas market as well, based on the policy of "aiming to become a truly global media company," we launched the English-language "Nikkei Asian Review" in 2013 as the core of our global strategy. (Nikkei Asian Review was rebranded as "Nikkei Asia" in 2020.) The FT had established a strong brand name for itself and enjoyed a high level of trust among businesspeople around the world. It was also leading the industry in terms of digitalization. Given these factors, the decision was made to bring the FT into the group to help transform Nikkei itself so that it could implement its "digital" and "global" management strategies.
The FT, known for its distinctive salmon-pink pages, is a global economic and financial newspaper that was first published in 1888 in the City, the financial district of London. It has earned the trust of global corporations, government leaders, and financial professionals around the world as a must-read newspaper. The FT's corporate creed, "Without fear and without favour," is in line with that of the Nikkei, "Fair and Impartial," and represents a corresponding set of values.
A Partner for Navigating the Digital Age
Nikkei chose FT as its partner not only because of its brand power but also due to its forward-looking management presence in the digital media world. The FT's website was the first to introduce a "metered" system, which allows non-paying users to view a certain number of articles for free, after which they are charged for further access. The company was quick to establish a model of acquiring readers based on data. For example, users' browsing status was analyzed, following which subscription plans would be offered at what was determined to be the optimal time. The editorial process had also shifted from the traditional working style of giving top priority to publishing articles on the website and working on the paper until just before the midnight deadline. After data analysis showed that reader access was greatest in the early morning and at midday, the decision was made to change the editorial process by shifting the peak working time accordingly.
Since the acquisition, Nikkei has been actively interacting with the FT and has learned a great deal from the latter's expertise in digital innovation. The editorial "digital first" attitude is particularly notable for its great impact, and it has become common for Nikkei's editorial office to edit the Online Edition while observing real-time reader behavior. It should be noted that the editorial decisions of Nikkei and the FT are made independently of each other, and Nikkei does not interfere in the way articles in the FT are handled or written. Rather, the two media giants act to inspire each other in terms of business models and the ongoing process of digitization.
Quality Media: Expectations and Responsibilities
The number of paid subscribers to the FT reached a record high in 2020. It has a global print and digital circulation of 1.1 million, reaching 26 million readers every month. In May 2019, for a fresh new start, the FT's headquarters and Nikkei Europe Inc. both moved to Bracken House, where the FT had previously been headquartered.
The advent of the Internet made it easier than ever to start a media company, and the Web quickly became flooded with content. Over time, there has come to be so much information on the Web that the perception that "content is free" has emerged. For obvious reasons, this perspective has put traditional print-based media companies in a difficult position. However, today's abundant Web-based content also contains a large amount of obviously false and unreliable information that distorts people's decision-making processes. As a result, the demand for reliable, high-quality media and journalism has never been higher. This fact has contributed to the steady growth of the FT's paying readership, even at a time when traditional media voices in general are struggling. Nikkei and the FT will continue to meet the expectations of readers around the world and provide unique reporting from the perspectives of both Japan and the UK that is characterized by its excellence.
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