Financial Times to debut big redesign Monday

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The Financial Times. ()
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The Financial Times will hit newsstands Monday with its first major redesign in seven years. And between the lines (set in a new typeface, called Financier, developed by rockstar New Zealand type designer Kris Sowersby) it’s possible to read an idea that’s been inching forward among quality broadsheet newspapers in recent years: the primacy of digital for delivering hard news.

Broadly characterizing the redesign of the paper as a “simplification” in a memo to staff obtained by Capital, editor Lionel Barber nearly makes the point: “It shows the market that the FT is confident in its print product and prepared to invest in it while pacing ahead with digital development at the same time. The newspaper's simplification enables us to shift our focus more into digital platforms and strike the right balance in our digital first newsroom.”

Bundling a print newspaper with a robust digital breaking news premise is a popular format with print news organizations that reach elite audiences like the F.T. Strategists have in recent years rationalized the emphasis on breaking news in print by observing that top executives are frequently out of range of their desktop or laptop computers and that toting a print newspaper (in addition to conferring status, in some cases) allows for catching up on the news away from one’s desk. But mobile devices and the wider presence of Wifi have superannuated that idea, and the digital device is as strong a power symbol as a salmon-colored newspaper (except perhaps on New York City subways and suburban rails).

What you can expect to see: “You will notice some new features such as a new typeface (Financier), a wider column measure, sharper lines - all designed to make reading of the FT more satisfying and better-suited to our quality journalism and premium brand,” Barber writes in his memo. “Look out for the double-page spread on UK Companies, the sports column on Mondays and more accessible data pages that now carry charts and graphics....and much more.”

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But these kinds of redesigns always require a new approach to the actual material. In editorial terms: We predict a newspaper more suited to the presentation of longer, more analytical and more visually focused articles than the almost intentionally stodgy, old-fashioned format of the paper has previously allowed, as the focus shifts from creating a print newspaper that delivers news for the first time to its readers into one that places the constant stream of news available to readers of F.T.’s digital products in larger analytical contexts, and presents print-worthy news experiences like photography and data visualization in sharper focus.

On a cellular level it’s an editorial position being taken up much more frequently these days at the desk level of broadsheets, who are finding slaving away to create hard-to-report articles that everyone has read online by the time the newspaper truck arrives at the newsstand increasingly unsatisfying, and are starting to think of print as a home for stories and approaches that are unlikely to be replicated by the competition and discretionary enough to be held for late-night or morning publication.

But to know for sure will require a trip to the newsstand Monday morning.