LB: I don’t know. I mean, just think about it as a slowly tilting seesaw. We don’t want violent directions in either way.
DS: I see that about 30% of your traffic is mobile. I guess that’s also expected to go…
LB: It’s going up. I mean the desktop is clearly an important part of the multiple platforms in which we’re distributing content. But mobiles, smartphones, tablets are increasingly important. We’re at 34%. So this is like a plane taking off at Reagan Airport. Maybe we should say La Guardia.
DS: Well, yeah, we’re in New York. So mobile will be an increasing part of the digital piece and digital an increasing part of the overall piece of subscriptions.
LB: That’s right. But that’s why I talk about a rebalancing.
DS:. And there’s no end point where it makes sense to stop printing the paper? A lot of papers are trying to figure when and if that happens.
LB: I never get into this debate because, first of all, we know that print is valuable. Second, it’s absolutely obvious to me that a certain class, section of people, want to read the printed newspaper. I’ve just spent three days in New York. I’ve had interviews with at least five top Wall Streeters who run their firms, and they either buy one or two copies of the newspaper. They subscribe. They get them delivered to the office and to their home. And they don’t want to read it on their desktop. They read it in print. And, interestingly, two of them were saying they really believe that reading a newspaper is a deeper form of reading because you concentrate more on what’s on the printed page.
DS: I have no doubt that’s true.
LB: Yeah, I don’t know how you’d prove it. But that’s an important insight. I call it, “lean back, lean forward.” By the way, coming into work now, I look at the iPad, and sometimes I look at the newspaper…It’s a different kind of engagement, isn’t it? The engagement with the tablet or with the desktop, with the Web, it is slightly more—I emphasize the word, slightly—more skittish.
DS: Is the main sort of attraction of the print paper going to be longer, in-depth things that will be able to stay fresh for…
LB: Not necessarily, no. That’s one of the great intellectual and journalistic challenges which I’m relishing at the moment, is to reinvent, somewhat, the newspaper. That means actually you need to package information in the paper in an engaging way. And I would submit that, if you look at the FT, look at the use of graphics, particularly where we have hired a brilliant guy from the Guardian, Kevin Wilson, more than five years ago, who’s had a huge impact on the Financial Times. We have transformed how we tackle subjects. And, the Web has influenced how we use design and graphics to convey difficult themes. The next point is, we pride ourselves in the FT in writing very concisely, but with context.
We’re slightly less fussy. I respect American newspapers and American journalism enormously. You know I spent time at an American newspaper [as a visiting fellow at The Washington Post in the 1980s]. We’re snappy. We have attribution, but we allow a little bit more comment-stroke-judgments to be made in the news form. And I think we can do that because we’re trusted. So you can have really quite rich, informative 400-word articles. Then there’s the long form, yes. One of the most gratifying things that I’ve seen in the last year or so is that some of the most read articles in the Financial Times have been the long form.
DS: It surprises you, right?