Internally referred to as minibrands, these verticals function like mini franchises. They are derived from broader topics, and are a part of the company’s core paid subscription packages. 

While minibrands were not designed as engagement tools for professional audiences or to tackle niche business challenges that accompany a specialist organisation like FT, their ability to foster such engagement has proven to be a delightful and unexpected by-product. 

So much so, that a large majority of the top four minibrands’ – Moral Money, Due Diligence, Energy Source and Scoreboard – audiences now originate from FT’s B2B subscriptions.

“Any initiative that sits in this portfolio is driven by strong editorial interest and commercial potential by way of sponsorships and reader revenue. Ultimately, minibrands allow us to build highly engaged audiences that we can reach across multiple platforms,” said Gupta at WNMC24.

Each of these brands, depending on their ethos and aims, have executions across newsletters, digital hubs, events, podcasts, and videos. 

Balancing B2B and B2C interests through niche content 

Minibrands have helped the FT provide structural depth to specific editorial coverage areas, compared to what generalist media might provide, translating into high audience engagement.

Minibrands sit in between on the medium spectrum here.

At the top of this spectrum sit highly specialised B2B tools and coverage areas – both of which come out of the group’s core teams, but also from the FT Specialist group.

For instance, a brand such as Sustainable Views, which covers ESG regulations, would sit at the top of the spectrum. Last year, FT acquired Endpoints, a publication covering the biopharma industry. Politico, too, sits in that top space, offering niche newsletters, analysis, data, events. 

“The benefit for operating in that top space is that you’re unlocking much more expensive B2B subscriptions…We’re talking low five figures, but of course you’re also working in lower volumes,” she said.

“It can be a challenge if you’re a traditionally consumer-facing publication to jump from down there all the way to the top, at least using your own in-house resources,” Gupta added.

One of the benefits of working from the middle of the spectrum is being able to leverage these brands to boost both B2B and B2C subscriptions, in addition to gaining advertising revenue, she noted. 

Diverse monetisation efforts

Minibrands have several formats that the FT monetises in different ways. This includes sponsorship via ads on the brand’s digital hubs, newsletters, and special reports.

“Advertisers are keen on this kind of sponsorship because of the story we can tell about the premium, professional nature of our audience,” Gupta said.

“We’re able to really paint that and also serve having these brands as a signal of investment also from our editorial team. These are areas where we think our audience will care about because we’re also investing in it.”

FT also builds active communities around these professional audiences through its events. They make money from ticket sales, event sponsorships – from big summits and also from some of the smaller round tables that they call forums, specifically designed for professionals.

All of this is underpinned, of course, by reader revenue. 

Merging editorial focus with commercial targets

The success of minibrands can also be attributed to the careful alignment of editorial strategies and commercial objectives. This enables FT to meet those specialised needs of business clients. 

The minibrands play in the sweet spot between catering to an individual subscriber and solving a specific business concern. 

Gupta pointed out that an interesting part of getting editorial buy-in is that writers for a broader consumer-facing audience might not be the right fit. They might not be interested or have the sources to cover the deeper news or analysis a well-read asset manager might be looking for.

“However, there might be a way to evolve the newsroom slowly, to introduce the ability to tackle some of those business needs. A step at a time,” she said.

Gupta also recommended paying close attention to the marketing and sales teams, and possibly upskilling them. 

“If you’re going for a simpler content evolution of your core content, like we do with the mini brands, you may not need a sales team with deep consultative experience,” she said. 

“However, as you build a more complex and premium product like Politico, we had built a pretty complex product which almost sold itself as a SaaS platform. That’s when consultative selling teams matter the most. You need people who are able to connect those business needs with solutions.”

Scalable growth infrastructure

The FT has created a cross-functional minibrands growth committee to implement a structure that allows for the development and evaluation of existing and new minibrands. This committee comprises senior stakeholders, board-level members, product, reader and sponsorship revenue, finance, and strategic partnerships people.

The objective is to assess the Proof of Concepts (POCs) for new minibands with both editorial and commercial alignment. The business case for each minibrand should include an editorial lead, commercial rationale, a growth roadmap, and success criteria or KPIs.

In the measure phase, the performance of the minibrands is reviewed using a set of weighted metrics, which include financial metrics (50 percent), reader revenue (30 percent), audience engagement metrics (10 percent), and business objectives (10 percent). This review helps identify opportunities, risks, and growth areas.

Finally, in the Reinvest/Closure phase, decisions are made about which minibrands to invest in further or to sunset. For example, if a miniband overperforms, 50 percent of the overperformance is reinvested along with a new growth case. Likewise, if a minibrand underperforms on KPIs, it is closed, and staff are redeployed. This structured approach ensures a systematic way to invest in and scale successful minibands while managing underperforming ones.

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