I’d like to think Trevor Butterworth is correct when he writes:
The general feeling seems to be that over the past five years the Bancrofts have allowed the Journal to spiral into inconsequentiality, while the FT has poured its resources into much more aggressive and insightful coverage of finance. Whether or not that is qualitatively or quantitatively true, I cannot say; but the perception is that the FT is covering bonds, the subprime fiasco in an authoritative, news-breaking way that the WSJ and other papers are not. And such a perception is its own bull market on Wall Street for the FT — and for Murdoch taking over the Journal to restore its competitive edge.
Now it’s conceivable that in the relatively narrow confines of the internationally focused higher reaches of Wall Street, the FT is gaining the upper hand. On quality and breadth of international coverage, it certainly should. But I think Butterworth’s larger assertion is wildly off the mark. The Financial Times has a US circulation around 135,000 and a total global circulation of about 430,000. In the US, The Wall Street Journal has a daily circulation of 2 million. USA Today is only narrowly bigger. Now a lot of the WSJ’s circulation is to accounting partners in Omaha and bankers in Tucson. But I suspect its 20:1 national advantage over the FT is largely reflected on Wall Street as well.
The US would be a very different country if the FT could truly become a circulation powerhouse. It would mean that many people understand that the rest of the world matters, that nuanced analysis of difficult phenomena can be helpful, that columnists can write on complex subjects without sloganeering or dumbing down and many other things. That day isn’t around the corner.
The truth is that if you want to keep up with business and financial news in the US – and prefer to get your news in paper form in the morning – there is still no substitute for the WSJ (with the constant caveat to avoid the op-ed pages like the plague). The FT has, to my mind sensibly, largely given up being authoritative in its US business and financial coverage. The key stories are there, of course, but it long ago realized that with a comparatively minuscule staff in a vast economy that it had to pick its stories carefully. The WSJ does a poor job compared to the FT of covering the rest of the world, but it knocks spots off the pink ‘un for coverage of its home country.