You can excuse the Financial Times for blushing today.
The newspaper is being sold to Japanese publisher Nikkei for £844 million ($1.3 billion). It fetched that much because the FT remains one of the world’s most distinctive news brands, even amid a glut of competition and the decline of print newspapers. There are many reasons the FT stands out—its concise writing, top-notch reporting, strangely aloof worldview—but perhaps none is more significant than the unusual pink coloring of its newsprint.
The FT was founded in 1888 as a competitor to the Financial and Mining News for readership among London’s burgeoning class of bankers. It debuted the pink pages on January 2, 1893. The newspaper’s public explanation for the move was characteristically succinct:
In order to provide outward features which will distinguish the Financial Times from other journals, a new heading and distinctive features will be introduced, and the paper will be slightly tinted.
It was not the first newspaper in London to try this trick. Years earlier, the Sporting Times had gone pink to differentiate itself from rivals. The move was so successful that the newspaper became known as The Pink ‘Un—unofficially at first, then as part of its nameplate.
There was another, perhaps even more motivating reason for the sudden burst of fuchsia on London newsstands: It was cheaper, because the pinkish hue was actually achieved by bleaching the newsprint less.
“Pink” is, in fact, a debatable description of the FT’s pages in that era. The newspaper itself said it was “slightly tinted,” and its actual color has literally faded into history.
The FT has certainly grown pinker over the years as its brand became more closely associated with the coloring. Some, including the newspaper itself, prefer to call the current version “salmon pink.” Asked to weigh in on the matter a few years ago, the Pantone Color Institute suggested “bisque” was a more appropriate descriptor.
FT.com, the newspaper’s website, draws its background with the hex value #fff1e0 █, which is most accurately seen as a shade of orange. The specific color doesn’t have a name in the specifications for HTML, but some that are close to it are called “blanched almond,” “old lace,” and the most descriptive of all, “papaya whip.”