FT starts hiring again to bolster Asian expansion

FT.com: plans Chinese-language service

The long recruitment freeze at the Financial Times is at an end. As deputy editor John Ridding prepares to “paint the East pink”, he has the money for new journalists in London and Asia.

Ridding is relaunching an expanded Asia edition of the FT in the autumn and moves to Hong Kong in July as the edition’s editor and publisher and part-time chairman of Pearson in Asia.

The opening of a bureau in Hong Kong will allow the FT to have a 24-hour news operation.

There are other new projects going on at the FT but Ridding will get his fair share of the reported £10m investment Pearson is intending to put into the paper.

“The recruitment freeze has ended. We are being careful and not going mad but we all agree these new projects require new people,” he said.

He already has a correspondents’ network in Asia and Australia in New Delhi, Bombay, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Bangkok, Jakarta and Sydney -“Our correspondents there are the best and the material they provide is top class” – but now he is about to add half a dozen key positions, including a “Lex” in Tokyo.

He is also setting up a news editing team, under news editor Dan Bogler, in Hong Kong. He is taking on more production staff in London where the edition will be created and become one of around a dozen editions produced nightly at the FT for the UK, US and Europe.

At the same time, the paper will launch a Chinese language service on FT.com. First translations of the website’s material will be done out of house but the FT will have “quality control” translators in-house too.

A new Eidos computer system, being installed this summer, will give the FT the facility to publish simultaneously in print and online. It will, said Ridding, give the journalists the flexibility to slice and dice content more easily for the many different Asian markets.

Last year China was the biggest location in the world for foreign investment. The FT has started a daily page of fund management coverage for Asia in the current Asian edition.

Ridding, 37, grew up in the East, was the FT’s super-stringer in South Korea and worked on staff from Hong Kong at the time of its return to Chinese sovereignty. Now he sees a big opportunity there. “It is the missing link in our global strategy – the final frontier,” he said of an area that takes in China, India, Japan and Australasia.

The expanded edition will enable the FT to project and prioritise the stories it feels matters to the internationally-minded business audience in Asia. The FT and Pearson have an abundance of material they want to maximise.

“We are hoping to meet a rising tide because these are the most dynamic economies in the world and the appetite for quality international business information is almost palpable,” explained Ridding. Although new prints sites are planned in the east, the FT is not intending to flood the market in a big bang, he added, but to build slowly over the next three years.

By Jean Morgan

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