Financial Times tests its commerce abilities with wine product

By Jodie Hopperton


Los Angeles, California, United States


I interviewed Caitlin Clarke at the FT a while ago about her bridge role between business and product. She sits on the commercial side of the business and wanted to test commerce with the FT. 

During brainstorming and research, a few options around commerce arose. They considered using affiliate links on existing content. However this was discounted fairy quickly for two main reasons: The editorial team was not keen and there was unlikely to be enough volume for the revenue to be meaningful. 

There was also the potential of creating a branded product with content that is optimised for e-commerce, such as Vogue’s CollagerieNYT wirecutter, or New York Magazine’s The Strategist. These are excellent products with a connection to editorial but with a purchase off-site — but they are cost intensive to build, market, and maintain. 

With a product mindset, they decided to test the latter of these ideas with a controlled trial. There was already editorial in the works about English wines, so the team decided that this could be an excellent first trial. And thus HTSI Curates was born.

Financial Times is making a small profit from HTSI Curates and learning about commerce offerings under the brand.
Financial Times is making a small profit from HTSI Curates and learning about commerce offerings under the brand.

The business development team created a box of wines from those featured in the article and built a limited trail of 100 cases. They launched the trial at the iconic FT Weekend Festival at the end of summer. 

They needed to understand all elements of the process so everything in house, including negotiations, was done with individual wineries. Caitlin noted that margins aren’t huge on wine at circa 15%-20%, and that was with the cases being bought upfront. They staved off logistics costs by partnering with one of the wineries who handled the sales and fulfilment.

All marketing was done via marketing e-mail,, the HTSI newsletter, and the summer event. Open rates on e-mails were above benchmark, and sales conversions for those that got to the landing page after the initial campaign was high at 17%. 

The results? The first batch of cases sold out. They made a small profit. And they met the aim of the project, which was to learn about how a commerce offering could work under the FT brand.

There is much to be learned from the FT and others about wine as a media product. I shared five learnings I’ve gleaned on this journey in a recent blog. Cheers!

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About Jodie Hopperton

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