Tag Archives: FT.com

#PPAconf: ‘Let’s make sure we do the paid content thing well’

The final session at the PPA Inspiration & Innovation digital publishing conference today returned to the now common discussion of how publishers can, and should be, developing digital revenues.

Neil Thackray, co-founder of Briefing Media opened up the debate by urging publishers not to repeat what he called a “monumental cock-up” in terms of making money through online advertising. “Let’s make sure we do the paid content thing well”, he said.

But this begs a question that remains unanswered for many: how exactly? Well the main pieces of advice were for publishers to take their time in developing strategies and new digital products, to use the unique content on offer, and not to simply regurgitate online content on new digital platforms. But overall in developing new revenues and products such as mobile, Thackray summed up, it is about putting the reader at the centre of what you do, not the brand or magazine.

And understanding these readers is key, the panel agreed, as fellow panel member Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, was able to demonstrate.

According to some of the latest figures the FT website saw a 79 per cent year-on-year increase in registered users in 2010, taking the total to more than three million. There has also been a reported 50 per cent increase in digital subscriptions on 2009, with 207,000 registering, and 900,000 downloads of FT apps on mobile phones and tablet devices for the period.

And now it is planning on using this vast data, which it has accrued as a result of its business model, to improve and inform the editorial content offered to its users – and that’s through personalised news.

It is about using insight to power the delivery of the content on the site. We have a fantastic rich picture of what our readers like about the content, how they consume it, and we have an opportunity to use that insight to deliver to people the content that they want.

I caught up with Grimshaw at the end of the panel debate to hear more about the plans:


Similarly John Barnes, managing director of digital at Incisive Media – and who is speaking at news:rewired, noise to signal later this month – echoed the value of knowledge when it comes to the audience.

I think business-to-business publishers went after the numbers and lost sight of the fact we should have a deep knowledge of our readers.

With the proliferation of platforms and operating systems, technology can make you a busy fool. For example we hear about digital magazines or iPad apps – what is the right way to go? Well maybe the right way is to not go quickly, or not at all.

Independent: Ten years of FT’s metered pay model

The Independent reports on the 10th anniversary of the Financial Times’ metered paywall going up.

For a decade the FT has allowed readers to access a limited number of articles for free before payment is required, a similar paywall model to that adopted by the New York Times last week. The FT has notched up 210,000 digital subscribers, each paying at least £250 for a year’s access.

[Managing director of FT.com Rob] Grimshaw points to the price of an FT digital subscription in the US – at $389 (£241), it is costlier than a subscription to the newspaper – as evidence of the growing value of digital content to the consumer.

Yet the view that online journalism should be free still largely prevails. Grimshaw is mystified: “There seems to be a real nervousness and lack of confidence amongst publishers about the lack of value of their content. The free content evangelism movement has not helped, neither has giving away content for free over a 10-year period.”

But as a couple of the comments on the article point out, the FT is a specialist publication and both companies and individuals are willing to pay for valued digital content.

The Independent’s full article is at this link

Financial Times searches for subscription building ideas – via crowdsourcing

The Financial Times has commissioned South African company Idea Bounty to help it source new revenue-making ideas. The creative mind with the best idea will win US $5,000.

As the tech site MemeBurn reported, the newspaper, which operates a tiered paid content/registration system, is searching for ideas for “how to increase the number of new subscriptions to its website FT.com.”

Idea Bounty, a project that connects clients with creatives, has launched this project on its site, ‘We Live in Digital Times’:

We are looking for digital marketing ideas which will increase the number of new subscriptions to the Financial Times online offering FT.com

The overall winner will win the cash bounty, but cleverly enough, ten runner-up prizes “will take the form of a full annual subscription to the Financial Times”.

The FT confirmed its partnership with Idea Bounty, but did not wish to comment further, when approached by Journalism.co.uk.

FT.com: France Telecom interested in Le Monde’s digital operations

The SFN blog has a quick round-up on the latest in the consortia fight for the French newspaper, Le Monde:

The two potential buyers are France Telecom subsidiary Orange, as well as a consortium led by Pierre Berge, ex-partner of late fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent, AFP reported. The paper said earlier that it needs as much as €100 million to pay off debts and survive in the tough times.

And this snippet from FT indicates where France Telecom sees Le Monde’s potential:

[F]rance Telecom has stressed that its interest in Le Monde lies in the title’s digital operations and synergies between its website and those of Le Nouvel Obs and Prisa, which owns El Pais, the Spanish daily.

Full FT.com article at this link (registration required)

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

#followjourn: Nick Reeve/features writer

#followjourn: Nick Reeve

Who? Reeve is a freelance financial journalist and a regular features writer for Financial Times Business. He is also, according to his Twitter bio, a “podcaster, Arsenal fan, musician, hopefully soon to be community radio presenter via @genradio”.

Where? He has a website here, with audio, print and photography portfolios, a bio, contact details and links to his work. He also has details of employment history up on his LinkedIn page. His work for FT Investment Adviser is collected here. Reeve tweets about all things financial, Arsenal, and otherwise.

Contact? @nick_reeve

Just as we like to supply you with fresh and innovative tips every day, we’re recommending journalists to follow online too. They might be from any sector of the industry: please send suggestions (you can nominate yourself) to judith or laura at journalism.co.uk; or to @journalismnews.

Correction: Nick Reeve is no longer a freelancer, he is a features writer for Financial Times Business.

FT.com: Digital chiefs challenge House of Lords digital economy bill amendment

A letter to the Financial Times signed by some of the highest digital figures in the UK challenges the House of Lords adoption of amendment 120A to the digital economy bill.

This clause, they argue, will lead to more cases where internet service providers (ISPs) block websites accused of illegally hosting copyrighted material – before being seen by a judge.

The writers, who include Tom Watson MP, Stephen Fry, the chief executive of Orange; the MD of Google UK, the chairman of the TalkTalk Group, BT Group’s chief executive and the MD of EBay, claim that freedom of speech will be threatened, without reducing copyright infringement.

Full letter at this link…

[you will need to register or subscribe to view in full]

Making money from registered (non-paying) users

Subscription revenues for FT.com have risen 43 per cent year-on-year, helping the newspaper keep in profit for 2009, the Guardian reports.

But its management has also flagged up the potential in other areas, too: BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan Jones’ interview with FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw touches on the money-making potential of registered news site users – who don’t necessarily pay.

What’s interesting is that the middle group, those who register but don’t pay, are still proving lucrative. The 1.9 million people registered users have given some very basic information such as their job title.

That’s enough, according to Mr Grimshaw, to allow the FT to run a targeted advertising and marketing operation with high yields.

While the FT’s higher tier of paying subscribers brings in around £20 million a year, it is still thinking about the freeloading clientele.

So are non-paywalled publishers missing a trick by not setting up registration systems, for fear of traffic drop-off?

It’s perhaps worth going back to my interview with Rob Grimshaw in January:

User analytics
Monitoring the behaviour of 1.8 million registered users and 121,000 subscribers is a big part of the FT’s marketing strategy, he said.

“Their details are in a database: we have a lot of demographic information about them; we’re also able to combine that with their normal activity on the website. That data base is a goldmine that brings benefits to many parts of the business.”

Specific advertising can be exposed to a certain audience and direct communication can be made by email, he said. “1.8 million users have self-selected as people who are interested in our content and our business,” he added. “It is an area where there are enormous benefits to be gained.”

He argued that privacy is not infringed by the publication’s methods: “We never focus on behaviour of particular individuals: we are always looking at things in aggregate; how a sector of our database of users behaves.

“We would never allow an advertiser access to that [user information]. That would be both unacceptable and illegal.”

The success of companies like Amazon was due to carefully targeted marketing, he said:

“Some of the most successful companies out there have built their businesses by understanding the behaviour of their users in a very defined way; using their insight to develop their business decision making.”

Rob Grimshaw on the paywall backlash

FT.com managing director Rob Grimshaw, regular spokesperson for the paid-for content model,  has a real problem with the language used by critics of the paywall, he told Journalism.co.uk yesterday.

“It’s always put into pejorative terms.” he said, “It doesn’t happen to any other product: you don’t talk about restaurants giving people a bad user experience by giving them a bill at the end of it.

“It’s understood that something has been produced and it needs to be paid for; somehow with news content it has become a totally different argument,” he said.

It is almost regarded as a “sort of a criminal act to have the temerity to charge for some of our products,” Grimshaw added. “It’s something that we need to get away from.”

“We’re not a charity, we’re a company with shareholders: there’s nothing free about the information we produce – our editorial operation costs millions of pounds to run and we don’t see it’s odd to put a price on it. In fact, it’s probably the only way to run a reasonable business.”

Needless to say, he supports the NYT’s newly announced FT-style subscription model, scheduled for 2011: “Publishers need to get themselves out the hole and be a bit more bold and brassy,” he said.

Publishers shouldn’t, he added, be afraid to say their content has got a value. While he admitted the FT has a niche and affluent reader base for its subscriber model, he believes general news sites can do it as well.

“Our sense [is that] if other publishers do go for it, they will be able to build successful models.”

FT.com is not without its free content rivals, he said: “[W]e’re not short of competition – for every topic we cover on FT.com you can find a list of sites as long as your arm.”

“There are parallels between what we’re doing and what general news publishers will have to do as well. For me, the big thing is quality. It all comes back to quality. Whether it’s niche [or not] it’s got to be good”.

General news sites have the capability, brand and long heritage with which to build better quality sites, Grimshaw argued. They can be “far more compelling than one man blogging in a room,” he said.

“There are numerous ways that publishers can create sites which people are prepared to pay for because they are better than anything else that’s out there.

“I don’t see that the publishers are going to have trouble to get their users to pay for content.”

Grimshaw’s firm belief, as he has said before, is that newspapers cannot  live by advertising alone.

Citing IAB figures from last year (available at this link), he said it was paid-for search that took “by far” the bulk of the money: around 62 per cent; with 19 per cent to classified; and only 18 per cent to online advertising spend.

“It seems everybody in the whole world is trying to float their business on that [advertising model]. It’s just not big enough for every one of those businesses  (…) so something is going to have to give.

“Either publishers are going to find themselves in serious difficulties, or they’re going to have to come up with another way of making money.”

FT.com’s forthcoming content plans include a new Blackberry app, ‘one day pass’ subscriptions, and video for iPhone.

Read more about it on our main site.

Condé Nast shuts four titles in cost-cutting move

As noted on our blog yesterday, Condé Nast, which publishes magazines such as Vogue, Vanity Fair and The New Yorker, is to shut four titles in a cost-cutting move.

180 jobs will be lost as a result of closing Gourmet, Modern Bride, Elegant Bride, and Cookie as the company focuses on titles ‘with the greatest prospects for long-term growth,’  according to Chuck Townsend, chief executive of Condé Nast.

Full FT report at this link…

Does the decision hold wider significance for the special interest magazine sector?

Join the debate on Journalism.co.uk:

Gourmet closure: does this sound the death knell for special interest magazines?