Looking for more pink-paper readers en route to Scarsdale, ‘Financial Times’ splashes itself all over Grand Central’s Vanderbilt Hall

Vanderbilt Hall, festooned with 'FT' branding. ()
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Anyone passing through Grand Central Terminal's golden-hued Vanderbilt Hall over the next couple of days will be subjected to a lavish display of high-tech media marketing: A series of interactive 3-D film projections brought to you by The Financial Times in collaboration with infographic journalist David McCandless.

The installation is on display through Thursday and covers three different themes—the global economy, how it is being transformed by mobile technology, and its recovery from the financial turmoil that has shaken up international markets in recent years. Visitors to the exhibit can interact with the films using a touch-sensitive floor mat.

"We're trying to reach the audience with a message that would be really striking and powerful and also quinessentially Financial Times," said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of the influential business broadsheet's website, FT.com, in a brief phone interview Tuesday afternoon.

"What we're all about is bringing the world to the reader."

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But really what this is about is adding more readers to the FT's audience in the U.S., where it now has more digital subscribers than in any other market—a little less than a third (692,655, to be precise) of its total average daily readership of roughly 2.2 million, according to a spokesperson. Its digital subscription base in the U.S. grew 30 percent last year, and Grimshaw is hoping to see that number tick upward.

The Grand Central campaign, which dovetails with ads in Times Square and on taxi screens throughout the city, is the beginning of a larger marketing push that may eventually spread to other U.S. cities with potential subscribers to the salmon-colored U.K.-based paper and its affiliated digital products, which cost between $27 and $37 a month. (A yearly print subscription is $348.)

"We're focused on making this campaign successful, making sure we make a real splash in New York, and then thinking about where we'll take it," said Grimshaw.

"We already have a fantastic audience here in the states, but the potential opportunity for us here is much bigger than that," he said. "The world economy is becoming more and more connected, and U.S. businesses, whether in New York or across the rest of the states, are becoming more and more focused on what's happening in the rest of the world."

And so are media outlets. Confronted with the reality that their hometown audiences can only scale so far, and that the amount of information available to them at the click of a mouse, meanwhile, is becoming more prodigious by the day, English-language news organizations are increasingly relying on foreign readers to grow their businesses.

The strategy seems even more obvious for British brands that have the resources to cross the pond—The Daily Mail is doing it; and so is The Guardian, which has added some 4 million online readers to its rolls since the launch of its U.S.-facing website last year.

For now, though, the FT, which already has a significant international footprint, will be happy to lure some more of those thousands of well-heeled Metro North commuters who pass through Grand Central every day. The ornate transit hub was seen as "sort of a grand location for this kind of thing," said Grimshaw. "We love the fact that we're part of the New York media landscape. This is the heart of our market in the states. But for the FT, its about the whole of America. We're starting in New York because that's the center of everything, and then we'll move out across the U.S."

The campaign is also a sign of the FT's increased American investment via its main U.S. headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, where its staff has grown to about 200. (The paper also keeps offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington D.C.)

It follows an advertising rollout last September that targeted news outlets like MSNBC, Bloomberg TV and Bloomberg Businessweek, outdoor placement on phone kiosks throughout Manhattan, and posters on the Long Island Railroad, Metro North and New Jersey Transit.

This latest marketing push is a departure in that it is the first time the FT has "focused a big brand campaign on digital," said Grimshaw. "That doesn't mean we're leaving the paper behind, but digital is where the growth is going to be in the next few years."