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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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FT sees 150,000 uses of new web-app in first 10 days

The Financial Times’ new web-based app has been viewed 150,000 times since its launch 10 days ago, which includes 100,000 hits in the first week of launch, the FT said in a media release today.

The FT is the first major news publisher to launch this type of HTML5 hybrid app, which can be viewed across a number of different smartphone and tablet devices.

Steve Pinches, FT group product head, said the app has received very positive feedback.

“Comments include recognition of the technical capabilities of the app and being at the cutting edge of technology. Users have also expressed appreciation for the improved speed of the app and look and feel enhancements when using on the iPhone.”

He explained where the app is heading.

“We will take a two-fold approach to improvements to the app. Firstly we will focus on adding new content to the existing app, including special reports, newspaper graphics and the ability to save articles for later. Secondly we will develop the app for other devices including Honeycomb, Samsung and BlackBerry Playbook.

“Our next priority is releasing the app for Android devices, both large and small screen. Following that we will work on an FT web app for BlackBerry Playbook.”

Initial analysis shows the ‘Companies’ section of the web-app is the most popular, followed by the Life and Arts section, which makes up around 10 per cent of consumption overall. Other popular features include Markets Data, World, Markets and Lex.

“Interestingly, we are seeing much more leisure-type usage, with user peaks early morning, evening and around lunch time. This suggests that as well as a core tool for use during the business day, like FT.com on a desktop, the app is an accessory being used on the way to and from work and planning for the day ahead.”

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FT.com gets go ahead for iPad app

We reported last week that the FT’s new app for iPad was on the brink of launch. Well, now it has got final Apple approval and the Hublot sponsored-app is available to download for free in the iTunes App store or via the iPad app store – although users will need to register or subscribe to one of its tiered options, for varying levels of access.

[Journalism.co.uk report ahead of launch at this link]

Here’s the FT’s own blurb, released today:

Key features of the app include the ability to:

  • Download the daily FT to your iPad for offline reading
  • Access content across all sections of FT.com, fully customisable so users can order key sections of the application interface – including World, Companies, Markets and more
  • View the FT’s award-winning high quality video content, including the latest updates on markets and interviews with high profile CEOs each morning. This is the first time the FT has offered video on one of its mobile products.
  • A dedicated Markets Data section, including macromaps highlighting markets across the world, with the option to also view regional indices and company information sheets
  • Full access to view personal investment portfolios
  • Read top ‘must read’ stories of the moment for the iPad edition, determined by the FT editorial team

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