Speaking at the Press Gazette’s News on the Move conference this week, Rob Grimshaw, Managing Director of FT.com, said that the Financial Times’ revenue from paid-for content is on course to usurp revenue gleaned from advertising this year.
Grimshaw also gazed into his crystal ball and said that mobile will be the FT’s main channel for distributing news within ‘three to four years’, though he acknowledged that monetizing content consumed on mobile devices is a challenge, though not an insurmountable one.
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As Press Gazette reports, The FT now has 260,000 paying digital subscribers, and in a standard week up to 20% of its new digital subscriptions arrived through a mobile device.
The FT site sits partially behind a paywall, and whilst you can register for free to read up to eight articles per 30 days, £5.19 per week gets you nearly full access to all its digital content (including mobile Web apps), and for £6.79 a week, you get a few added extras on top.
Grimshaw said that the FT’s subscription business had “exploded”, bringing it to a “50/50” revenue ratio, between subscriptions and ad-income. As for when it will overtake, he said: “We will be reaching that balance point this year.”
“The content revenues are in many ways much more comfortable to work with than advertising revenues,” he continued. “We have tremendous visibility, particularly where an annual subscription is part of that base. I know pretty much what we’re going to be getting from subscriptions right through to the end of this year. That’s never been the case with our advertising business. We’re not doing it for that reason, we’re doing what we are doing because actually we’ve seen long-term risk against both print advertising and online advertising….therefore we’re looking for other ways to make money and we feel content revenues are the obvious way to do it.”
Last June, we reported that the Financial Times’ Web app had notched up an impressive 200,000 downloads within a couple of weeks of launch, as it sought to move away from the native iOS app space due to restrictions (and costs…) imposed by Apple.
Indeed, 2011 was a pretty strong year for the Financial Times, and its digital strategy paid off as it announced 30% year-on-year growth in digital subscriber numbers, taking it to a total of a quarter of a million in November.
This is all good news for the newspaper industry, and it helps to show that paywalls can work.