Last summer, the Financial Times predicted that its digital subscriptions would surpass print circulation by end of year. Update: the FT announced it had reached this milestone in July.
In its 2012 results, parent company Pearson has revealed that total FT Group revenues were up 4% last year, with combined paid print and online circulation rising to 602,000, and confirmed that digital subscriptions did indeed exceed print circulation for the first time in 2012.
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The FT site sits behind a paywall, and whilst you can try it for £1 for the first month, £9/week gets you full access to all the digital content across Web and mobile, while £10 and £12 monthly subs get you add-ons such as print copies.
This is a significant milestone for the publication, which famously ditched Apple’s App Store in favor of an HTML5 Web app back in 2011, and we reported at the time it had notched up an impressive 200,000 downloads within a couple of weeks of launch, as it sought to move away from native iOS apps due to restrictions (and costs…) imposed by Apple.
Digital subscriptions increased 18% to almost 316,000 last year, and now has 3.5 million FT Web App users. Mobile devices now account for almost a third (30%) of FT.com traffic and 15% of new subscriptions.
Pearson also notes that its digital and services revenues accounted for half of all FT Group revenues last year, and if you consider this figure stood at less than a third (31%) in 2008, it’s clear that physical newspapers are on the fall, with online reporting and other services coming to the fore. Indeed, back in March the FT relaunched its Conferences and Events division as ‘Financial Times Live’, making live video-streaming, webinars, a video archive and Twitter chats core elements of its corporate events. FT Live went on to deliver more than 200 events last year.
Ad revenue falls
Interestingly, Pearson also reported that ad revenue accounted for only 39% of FT Group revenues last year, down from 52% in 2008. This ties in with what FT.com Managing Director Rob Grimshaw said last year, predicting that subscription revenue was on course to overtake ad-income in 2012. This actually doesn’t give us hard numbers though, and it’s not clear from this if actual ad-spend is down, or just the percentage is less because of increases in subscriptions, though in its announcement it does say that advertising was “generally weak and volatile with poor visibility.” It did add that digital revenues were boosted by other initiatives, such as FT SmartMatch, which “automatically puts client content such as articles, white papers and videos in front of FT.com users while they’re reading related FT news stories.”
Penguin and ebooks
With the Penguin and Random House merger moving one step closer recently as the US Department of Justice gave its seal of approval, Pearson also noted that its Penguin subsidiary’s ebook revenue “grew strongly” in 2012 and accounted for 17% of Penguin’s total global revenue, compared to 12% in 2011. This figure stood closer to 30% in the US, compared to 20% in 2011.
This was perhaps partly boosted by its continued push into new markets including Australia, India, Brazil and China, with a number of notable digital-only imprints launched. Overall, however, Penguin’s revenue growth was modest, reported as 1% year-on-year.
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