“New owners, new partners, same FT,” Lionel Barber, editor of the FT, at the 2015 LSE Conference. “The FT remains committed to the gold standard of journalistic excellence.” The FT was sold for an impressive £844m ($1.3bn), which amounts to 40 times the paper’s earnings. Barber said at the LSE that it was the paper’s brand that was key, and Nikkei’s global ambitions were widely cited as a key factor.
The FT has long been a champion of paid digital content. Its content and inherent value to business people allowed it to make a case for charging for its digital content relatively easily, and its metered model – allowing readers to access up to three articles a month before subscribing – served it well from 2007-2014. In early 2015, however, the paper began to change its subscriber recruitment efforts from the metered model to one which requires readers to start a paid trial to access any content, at £1 for the first four weeks (either print or digital).
“The theory is that within that they can build a habit, and then become a subscriber”, CEO John Ridding told the Guardian. The paper continues, however, to make certain stories available to read free via social media, which helps potential new readers to discover its content.
This new model of paid trials “underpinned a strong increase in content revenues and digital subscriptions,” claimed the paper’s statement on its 2015 results. These results also reported digital content revenue growth (15%), and total circulation growth (8% year-on-year) to more than 780,000 subscriptions across print and online. Digital subscriptions grew 12% to 566,000, with digital now representing almost three-quarters of the FT’s total paying audience. The FT’s combined print and digital readership grew 8% to 2.1m daily readers, with mobile readership increasing 13% compared to 2014.
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