Gowers: 'I would say no to another newspaper editorship'

By Dominic Ponsford Ex-Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers has
ruled out editing another newspaper because of the challenges he says
the press faces from the internet.

Gowers abruptly left the top job at the FT last Thursday to be replaced by the paper’s US managing editor, Lionel Barber.

Citing
the development of FT.com as one of the proudest achievements of his
four-year editorship, Gowers said: “I’m pretty clear that whatever my
next job is, if someone is foolish enough to offer me another newspaper
to edit, I would say no.

“The newspaper industry faces enormous
challenges and the new media are free from those encumbrances. The
internet is growing fast and newspaper readership is declining.”

The
FT’s website has been in profit since December 2002 and claims 3.9
million unique monthly visitors and 80,000 paying subscribers.

Gowers
said: “One of the things that I feel proudest about my time at the FT
is that we did step up the pace of integration of what we do online
with what we do in print – the two things are two sides of the same
coin, they are produced by the same people and that is enormously
important.

“The FT’s rather ahead of the game in the industry.
Most old-style print newspapers said ‘we’d better set up a separate
unit to do the internet’ – separate people often in separate buildings.
Under my leadership, we went very far towards integrating the two and
making the two work together.

“There’s more to that than simple
cost efficiencies, it’s the way that people want to use their
newspapers. They want to use them in a complementary way and see more
online, and that’s why I confidently predict that those who can make
that work will have good things to come.”

According to Pearson, Gowers left because he had “strategic differences”

with the company.

Both sides have refused to elaborate further on the fallout, but Gowers’

departure
has come just a month after the arrival of new Pearson chairman Glen
Moreno, who has promised to “deliver value to customers and
shareholders”.

The FT has consistently lost money during Gowers’ editorship: £23m in 2002, £32m in 2003 and £9m in 2004.

According to Pearson, the paper is on course to break even this year.

Gowers
said he is proud of the fact that over his period as editor he kept a
promise to avoid compulsory redundancies, although more than 50
journalism jobs have gone at the paper through voluntary redundancy
schemes.

The FT has also had an editorial hiring freeze in place
since Gowers started – a month after the 11 September terrorism attacks
on the US – leaving the newspaper with a current journalist headcount
of 320 to cover newsrooms in London, New York and Hong Kong.

He
said: “This was the most challenging time for business newspapers and
magazines that we have ever seen, and to have kept the ship sailing
through that perfect storm, without major redundancies, and to innovate
during that time and take the paper into Asia, is satisfying.”

Regarding
the future of the FT, Gowers said: “It has the potential, which it is
well on the way to fulfilling, of being the pre-eminent global business
newspaper brand.

“Far more people access material produced by the FT through the online medium than have ever accessed it in print.

“Advertising on FT.com is beginning to become a significant factor in the overall business. That’s really exciting.”

Regarding his own future, he said he sees it as on the “offence side rather than the defence side”.

Asked
to explain further, Gowers said: “New media is the area that is growing
very fast, probably faster than anybody in what used to be called Fleet
Street really knows, and we felt that gale of change blowing in our
business particularly.

“The future belongs to those who can ride that gale and be involved in it, rather than being taken over by it.”

Gowers
said in the short term he intends to spend more time with his wife and
young son and daughter, aged seven and five respectively. He said:
“Maybe I’ll do something completely different. From those people who
I’ve spoken to in other businesses who’ve decided to change their life
at roughly my age, they all say ‘wonderful opportunity to have a second
go at something else’.”

Gowers added: “My son said to me on
Thursday morning: ‘There’s really one good thing out of this, Daddy –
and that is you’re going to be at home.'”

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