x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Financial Times's Lionel Barber all for tablet devices

Tablet devices are a game-changer for the newspaper industry, according to the editor of the Financial Times. But he insists newspapers aren't quite dead yet.

The iPad, along with other tablet devices, will be a game-changer for the newspaper industry. That is the view of Lionel Barber, the editor of The Financial Times.

He has just sent out a message to all staff saying that each will receive US$480 (Dh1,762) to buy an iPad or tablet.

The FT is picking up an enormous number of subscribers to its iPad application, with more than 400,000 downloads since its launch in August, he says. This outstrips even the success of its iPhone application, which now has 350,000 subscribers.

"There is a shift of business model with an emphasis on online," he says. "But that doesn't mean we are giving up on the paper. There is a whole class who wants to read a paper product and those people are living longer."

He vigorously dismisses the notion that newspapers are like dinosaurs. "God no," he says. "The FT is a sleek stallion that's not going to the knacker's yard. People get this completely wrong. Newspapers still account for a large amount of revenue and rates are higher in print than online. You don't give up on the newspaper. But you have to adapt it to make it complementary with the web. You no longer worry about a scoop in the newspaper. You point it out online. But the newspaper is the refined, reflective form."

One of the criticisms of the FT is that it is too close to big business, and in particular Wall Street and the City. Unsurprisingly, it is one that Mr Barber dismisses.

"We are committed to understanding modern business and finance. You can be sceptical, and you never want to get too close to anybody, but there has to be a commitment to balanced reporting with a great emphasis on context. I don't want cheap shots and I don't over-personalise. We are sympathetic critics. But I don't think that the biggest financial crisis was caused by bankers being paid too much."

He thinks that President Barack Obama inherited huge policy challenges, including two wars, a financial crisis, a continuing Arab-Israeli crisis, and Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"We shouldn't write him off yet," he says. "And I have every confidence that the US economy will be coming back strongly, although deflation and unemployment are still the biggest threat."

Mr Barber says the Gulf region is important for the FT, with a lot of money and opportunity, and more than "just a natural resources play". But he is not a big follower of the local media.

"I read Gulf News this morning," he says. "But that's about it."