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The Financial Times’ ‘How to Spend It’ Gets a Rebrand

The lucrative lifestyle supplement, edited by Jo Ellison, is changing its title to the ‘HTSI’ as part of a bid to modernise its image.
The Financial Times has rebranded its lucrative lifestyle supplement HTSI.
The Financial Times has rebranded its lucrative lifestyle supplement HTSI. (HTSI)

Key insights

  • The rebrand, which debuts June 4, reflects the title’s efforts to project a more modern image.
  • Though the tone is shifting, HTSI will continue to offer high-end brands access to affluent readers in an advertiser-friendly environment.
  • As many publishers cut back on print, the FT’s chief commercial officer, Jon Slade, sees room for growth.

How to Spend It, the Financial Times’ lucrative weekend lifestyle guide for the newspaper’s moneyed readers, is getting a makeover, starting with a new name: HTSI. The rebrand, which debuts June 4, reflects the title’s efforts to project a more modern image and engage a broader audience.

How to Spend It began as a weekend column in the 1960s, becoming a magazine in 1994. A pioneer in lifestyle supplements that unite affluent readers with luxury advertisers, How to Spend It proved a bankable proposition, kicking off a wave of like-minded supplements at top newspapers around the world, including T: The New York Times Styles Magazine, The Wall Street Journal’s WSJ and Le Monde’s M.

But How to Spend It’s semi-ironic positioning, captured in its title, had begun to feel out of step with the times, said Jo Ellison, the supplement’s editor since 2019, who has evolved the title away from the “yuppie-era, bonus-driven City-based financial culture” towards a more modern take on luxury, focused on time well spent as much as money.

“We reached this point now where there’s a European war on, we’re looking at the cost of living crisis, looking at inflation rates being incredibly high,” Ellison said. “I was less comfortable with going out every weekend with ‘How to Spend It’ across our masthead.”

During her tenure, Ellison, a veteran of British Vogue who spent five years as the FT’s fashion editor before replacing Gillian de Bono at How to Spend It, has introduced columns from the likes of artist-chef Leila Gohar. Former Apple designer Jony Ive guest-edited a recent issue.

“It’s about beautiful things, but it’s about beautiful things that can touch many people’s lives,” said Ellison.

The approach has boosted the publication’s status with younger readers in creative fields. Instagramming a photo with a print issue of How to Spend It on a Saturday morning has become a kind of status symbol for some.

But though the tone is shifting, the underlying business model remains the same. Luxury supplements like the new HTSI offer high-end brands access to a captive audience of affluent readers in an advertiser-friendly environment, where they can be sure they won’t appear next to the kind of grim news that currently dominates the headlines.

HTSI’s contribution to the FT’s overall business is “really considerable,” said chief commercial officer Jon Slade via email, though he declined to share specific figures.

Though many publishers continue to cut back on print, Slade sees room for growth: there are 52 weeks in the year, though HTSI currently publishes only 37 issues per annum, he noted.

At the same time, HTSI is focused on expanding its online presence and targeting new readers who may never have read the physical magazine. In that mix is a rising class of tech and crypto wealthy, as well as the children of longtime Financial Times readers, who grew up online and are coming into their prime earning years (or their inheritances).

Ellison said the title would expand its coverage in areas such as crypto, cars and wellness, with some of that content published only online. Digital currently generates a minority of the title’s revenue, but has big potential, said Slade.

One of the first things Ellison did as editor was lobby for a How to Spend It spot on the FT’s homepage. Landing there has given the team access to more information about who the reader is and where they come from. So, too, has social media.

“Instagram makes you remember that your readership is made of lots of diverse groups and you don’t want to neglect any of them,” said Ellison.

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