What you can learn from the FT

Lots of people have lots of opinions about news and information online and what the future might be for mainstream media in a time of declining circulations and advertising revenues, not to mention a severe recession.

The Financial Times seems to have got it right where others haven’t, according to AdAge.com in a feature which points out that not only has the FT increased the price of its print newspaper, it also charges a fee to access its online content. At the same time, circulation and ad revenue are up.

What’s the secret to the FT’s success? Simple, says AdAge:

    1. People will pay for content — if the content is high quality and relevant to a niche
    2. When it comes to monetizing online, garnering a lot of eyeballs alone isn’t enough.
    3. Just because there’s a recession doesn’t mean you have to give away the farm.

As a user, I’ll distil it all down into a single word – content.

I’m an FT.com paying subscriber, and have been for quite some years. Why do I pay? Certainly not for the general news: I can get that for free anywhere online.

No, I’m willing to pay for great content that I can’t get anywhere else. Content written by people who write it for the FT and for no one else. Content that I find invaluable and, thus, am willing to pay for access to it.

I have the same feelings about The Economist, the only other publication that I am willing to pay for access to its content

Both have struck the right balance between content and price (and long may that hold).

It’s all about content. At the right price.

AdAge.com | How Financial Times Defies the Times

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Emily McDaid

    The formula is simple – being the best in a narrowing field. FT has by far and away the best journalism in the UK. The stories are well-researched, well-written and edited properly. The FT rises way above the competition when it comes to quality of content. Hence people will pay.

  2. Chris Marritt

    Unless you measure it by the fact that people are prepared to pay for it, I think the notion of quality here is subjective. Exclusivity is more important – it’s content that you can’t get anywhere else. The FT is at a natural advantage here because there isn’t a genuine competitor in the UK.
    The question for me is how could The Times or The Daily Telegraph learn from the FT’s model or experience? Improve the quality of content? Not enough on news – their major product – and not sure it’s enough when only applied to comment and features.
    Appeal to a smaller niche? Not really an option.
    Any other ideas?

  3. neville

    I agree, Chris, quality is a subjective notion. Agree, too, that it is largely about exclusivity.

    The questions you ask re the Times and Telegraph as examples are good ones. I don’t think such mainstream media can compete with the current FT model without making major changes to their own models if they are to attract paying users for their online properties and if they are to make money at it. I’m sure that if they knew how to do that, they would have done it by now.

    By the same token, I also think that if the FT were now embarking on a venture to attract paying subscribers online, they would fail.

    In looking at the large picture, maybe the future for mainstream media is a variant of the current FT model that somehow strikes an ideal balance between ‘great content’ and cost. And I really have no idea at all what that balance could be or even what ‘great content’ might look like at the Times or the Telegraph.

    Meanwhile, back to my FT… :)

  4. Jay Sorrels

    Too true, Neville. I’ve got a similar Pearson-centric paid media diet. Supplemented by Prospect, WIRE and some others. I think that this ecomomic shakeup may well end up forcing things that are free but have no reason to be to the wall. The FT will be safe.

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