After two arduous years of restructuring, the Financial Times is advancing its thus far impressively successful transition from print to digital with a significant change in the way it charges for online content.
Out goes the metered model it pioneered eight years ago (where users can access three articles per month for free but have to subscribe if they want more) and in comes a new system that will see users paying for most of its online content. As from 27th February, visitors will be offered a month’s trial during which they can access most of the paper’s online content for a “nominal” sum. As FT CEO John Ridding put it, the metered model had been a “fantastic success” but the new system will do something different:
“The theory is that within that they can build a habit, and then become a subscriber,” he said.
Paid trials will, the paper forecasts, push subscription rates up by between 11 per cent and 21 per cent. And it’s hoping to build on an already robust digital user base: two thirds of FT readers (504,000) have digital subscriptions already, a year-on-year increase of 21 per cent. With the metered model, the combined total of print and digital circulation now stands at 720,000.
It’s not only existing subscribers who’ll be approached. According to Ridding, new subscribers will be enticed by targeted marketing and social media campaigns. Currently, he said, the FT is considering making coverage of specific events or stories open to non-payers in order to drive new subscriptions (existing “metered” subscribers will still be able to access three articles a month for the time being).
Preliminary results for 2014 from the Pearson Group (which owns the FT) reveal that digital subscriptions now amounts to 70 per cent of the paper’s paying audience, with the growth in digital circulation offsetting what the group described as “continuing structural declines in print content and advertising.”
Pearson Chief Executive, John Fallon, said:
“We are really pleased with the progress we have made at the Financial Times. It went through, in 2013, its own programme of restructuring which has helped very significantly to grow the business this year. It has itself accelerated the shift from analogue to digital.”