The Financial Times had its strongest year for advertising since 2015 in 2022 and its best ever year for events revenue.
Newly-published UK accounts for Financial Times Ltd on Companies House show operating profit up 179% to £13.4m and profit before interest and taxation up 547% to £11.7m. The accounts said this was “achieved through careful control of operating costs in the face of growing inflationary pressures”. Revenue was up 14% to £422.5m.
However, the FT Ltd accounts filed in the UK do not show consolidated earnings for the FT’s global business. The FT is wholly owned by private Japanese firm Nikkei, which does not publish any global FT financial figures.
Press Gazette understands that the FT takes most of its costs in the UK but generates a large volume of its revenue overseas, meaning the UK accounts represent an incomplete picture.
According to consolidated and unaudited global figures shared internally and seen by Press Gazette, the FT Group overall grew revenues by 5% to £458m in 2022 while operating profits were down by 7% to £28.7m, which it described as a strong performance despite the economic headwinds.
Profits would have been higher were it not for measures put in place to help staff with the rising cost of living: a one-off £1,800 payment to all staff and a higher inflationary benchmark used to raise salaries compared to the previous year.
Similarly, FT Group chief executive John Ridding said last year that 2021 profits “would have been near record levels” without a one-off bonus payment made at the end of that year.
The FT globally employs more than 2,700 people, of which 700 are journalists in 40 countries. Some 1,508 are in the UK. This means the 2022 cost-of-living payment will have cost the FT around £2.7m in the UK and at least £4.9m in total, dependent on factors like currency fluctuations.
The UK accounts stated that staff costs grew by 15% to £151.3m with more than 100 additional people added to the business in 2022, while the global report refers to “significant investments both in people and editorial projects… thanks to the continuing strong support our newsroom receives from Nikkei, but also because of smart redeployments and shifting resources”.
FT growth ‘across all major revenue lines’
Ridding said in the 2022 internal document that there had been growth “across all major revenue lines”, including subscriptions, events, FT Strategies, and FT Specialist’s “profitable shift from print to digital”.
Digital advertising revenues doubled in three years, the document revealed, going from £20m in 2019 to £58m, while print grew by £2.6m. Overall, 2022 was the FT’s strongest year for advertising revenues since 2015 which Ridding said “given the context of recessionary pressures, was an impressive achievement”.
The FT has invested in podcasts, leading to 25% year-on-year growth in audio advertising revenues to £1.5m as its series collectively reached 62 million downloads in 2022, up 53% compared to 2021.
The internal document highlighted its first investigative series Hot Money, which won the podcast prize at Press Gazette’s Future of Media Awards this month and saw 45% of its 2.5 million downloads in 2022 come from the US. Meanwhile the FT News Briefing averaged more than four million downloads each month and Money Clinic surpassed one million downloads in six months, it said.
There was also major growth in newsletters, for which the Stephen Bush-written Inside Politics also won at the Future of Media Awards, with unique subscribers up 90%.
Event revenue through the FT Live division was up 30% year-on-year to £29.6m, its best performance to date, with net profits up 17% to £8.74m. The FT’s 270 events in 2022 included the FT Business of Football Summit, The Future of the Car Summit, The Global Boardroom, and the FT Weekend Festival which launched in the US as well as the UK.
The FT reached a record paying readership in 2022 with more than 1.26 million subscribers accessing its website and newspaper, up 9% year-on-year.
Digital paying reader volumes grew by 11% year-on-year, driven primarily by corporate subscriptions which were up 14%.
Ridding said: “2022 brought all-time highs in terms of subscribers and engaged readers. Never before in the 135-year history of the FT have we reached so many paying readers and engaged so many, so deeply.
“A combination of editorial excellence in covering the extraordinary news agenda, and the skills of our tech and subscriptions marketing teams, drove record-breaking results in quality growth last year.
“All major departments delivered strong performances to help us reach our financial goals as we ended the year ahead of plan.”
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