The Reading Room

FT Weekend Magazine

The FT have launched the latest incarnation of their Saturday supplement. A few star features that have been running for years have been given a reprieve – including the brilliant Undercover Economist, Miss Moneypenny and the widely ripped off First Person column. Otherwise it is year zero. FT magazine has become FT Weekend Magazine. Bold, crisply designed pages have replaced all those detailed mini-columns, graphics and that slightly suffocating sense of quirk.

Unsurprisingly, given that new editor Sue Matthias once edited the Guardian Saturday magazine, its typeface and format bears more than a passing resemblance to Guardian Weekend. Star writers are in, (Simon Schama interviews Cameron in the first edition), cookery and restaurant reviews are included for the first time, with a sprinkling of new bona fide lifestyle columnists.

FT magazine must be the most prodded, pinched and redesigned supplement on the newsstands over the last five years. When it was launched in the mid noughties, under the forbidding Roundhead intelligence of John Lloyd, it resembled a kind of up-market version of Prospect. It would feature 10,000 word dissections of American foreign policy and the rise of China, and was the only place in the British media that would run long pieces of reportage. But the advertisers didn’t know what to make of it. It owed more to the thinktank seminar table than the boardroom.

In fairness, a supplement for the FT is a very tricky act to pull off because the paper has always several very distinct different audiences. There is the core British business audience who have traditionally seen the FT as their house journal (see Alan Sugar leafing through its pages in the credits of the Apprentice); then there is the global financial elite who, on a weekend, want to read about the best private jet to hire or the most exclusive retreat in the Hamptons; then there is a worldwide Government and NGO Audience, who want to read about the future of the World Bank, human rights abuses in the Congo, and in-depth political coverage.

Sue Matthias’s new vision seems to combine these audiences much better than ever before. Gillian Tett, forever bathing in glory for having predicted the Financial Crisis, is given her own column for the first time – satisfying the financiers. There is still room for luxury pursuits like sailing and a feature on Colin Montgomerie for Clubhouse mad CEO.

At the same time, Matthais has made it hold its own as a general interest weekend magazine that can take on rivals like the Times and Telegraph. In the first edition, FT Weekend supplement secured the first weekend magazine interview with Cameron since he became Prime Minister, and ran a piece on Mandela’s childhood home that could have sat comfortably in any of the other broadsheets. In short, the FT has become a little less distinctive, but produced something that far more people will want to read, even if some, like me, will miss those never-ending features on foreign policy.

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