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Paywall rises on FT’s ‘flexible’ iPad and iPhone web app

The Financial Times paywall will go up on its new web-based app this week, which has so far reported encouraging stats with 150,000 hits during the first 10 days, during which time users have not been required to login.

“We’re seeing a strong conversion from the existing subscriber base who are using the iPad app and we’re also seeing a large cohort of new users as well,” Steve Pinches, group product manager for FT.com told Journalism.co.uk.

The new web-based iPad and iPhone app was launched on 7 June and is downloaded by the user clicking on the URL app.ft.com. It has received a great deal of attention from media organisations considering investing in native iPhone, iPad, Android and BlackBerry apps.

Advantages of web-based apps include flexibility: HTML5, the language the FT app is written in, has the potential to be used across different devices, reducing the cost and time spent in developing separate apps in different languages. The new web app bypasses Apple’s App Store and therefore avoids the FT losing a 30 per cent cut.

Pinches explained the FT will be prioritising development of the web-based app. Indeed the home screen to the new app states the FT is “encouraging our readers to switch immediately to the new FT web app”.

“It’s not that we are diametrically opposed to being in apps stores. It’s just that it makes a lot more sense for us to develop things in a web-based framework,” Pinches said.

“We have a business model that we’ve spent a lot of time investing in, which we feel is great for users because it gives them access across multiple platforms and whenever we evaluate any channel, we have to make sure it meets the basic criteria for us to be able to run our business as we do.”

As the web app can be used by both iPhones and iPads, it is easier to maintain than two separate natives. It also offers various new features for iPhone users, including video and images, which were not available in the native iPhone app.

Asked if there will be a point when they will remove the native from the App Store, Pinches said: “We’re still in discussions with Apple and that’s being handled by our MD”, and described talks as “amicable”.

Unlike the iPad app which was built by a company in Colorado called Wall Street On Demand, the new app was built by London-based Assanka, which also built the FT’s Android app, predominantly using HTML5.

“They built the Android app, that was their first HTML5 app so it’s been a pretty steep learning curve.”

“The next plan is to roll that code out into the big screen Android, the small screen Android, the [BlackBerry] PlayBook and webOS,” Pinches said.

That may manifest itself as a web-based app compatible with other platforms or more native apps, Pinches explained.

“We always want to keep the two options open: being able to launch as a web app or a native app or both.”

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