FT in 'third way' move on gated web access

Facing a potentially increased online competition from the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times has today announced plans to increase the amount of material available free on its website, FT.com.

In what the company describes as a ‘third way’between free-to-air and paid content business models, FT.com will allow free access to 30 stories per month beginning in mid-October, including premium content that is currently behind a pay wall.
a ‘light touch” registration procedure will be required after readers have viewed the first five articles. Users who access more more than 30 articles per monoth will have to buy a premium subscription, which costs £99 or £199 per year.

The new model will enable blogs, news aggregators and other websites to access FT.com content and link to it more freely, while allowing the financial daily to retain a revenue stream from paying online subscribers.

The company says FT.com currently has 101,000 subscribers, up from the 97,000 at the time of its interim results in July. Estimates earlier this year suggested that the FT makes somewhere between £10 million and £38 million from its online subscriptions.

‘Other publishers have been caught in a stark choice between free versus paid. We are now offering a third way, in which you only pay if you want more than 30 articles per month,” said Ien Cheng, publisher and managing editor of FT.com.

Financial Times chief executive John Ridding said: “This new model is innovative and flexible – and will broaden our reach. We believe many FT.com users, drawn by these changes and the quality of our journalism, will become regular and dedicated FT users and join the ranks of our existing subscribers.”

Premium subscribers will have exclusive access to Lex, which now has additional online articles and a new FT Mobile News Reader application.

The new access model will be followed by enhancements at FT.com, including new editorial features and improvements to the design and performance of the site.

Among the promised changes are better integration of market data and the FT’s journalism, including interactive charting that will allow users to link stock price movements with company news reported.

The site will also feature new blogs by chief Washington commentator Clive Crook, chief business commentator John Gapper, and Tim Harford, author of the best-selling Undercover Economist. Pageviews on FT.com blogs have more than doubled in the last 12 months, the company said.

In its last published ABCe audit in March, FT.com showed a slight year-on-year decline, to 5.35 million monthly unique users. But the company now says FT.com monthly unique users have now grown to 6.5 million. It claims that online revenues have risen by 40 per cent over the last year.

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