- Mobile will be FT's main form of news distribution within 3-4 years
- Move to mobile is a 'tectonic shift as great in scale as shift from print to desktop
- Industry still struggling to monetise mobile content
Rob Grimshaw also predicted that mobile will become the title's main form of news distribution within three to four years.
The FT now has 260,000 paid-for digital subscribers. Grimshaw revealed that in typical week 15-20 per cent of its new digital subscriptions are sold through a mobile device.
'We've been surprised by people's willingness to pay for premium-priced subscriptions through mobile devices,'he said at Press Gazette's News on the Move conference on Wednesday.
'We're convinced that we can monetise mobile through subscriptions and that we absolutely have to invest in the channel.
'Mobile presents an enormous challenge for the publishing industry… people's lives don't stop when they leave their desks or when they leave their houses – their relationship, their reading, their business – all of that carries on."
Grimshaw said the FT was now convinced that mobile was going to be the 'main distribution channel for news in the future probably within three to four years for our audience, and not that far behind for most other publications".
'The world is shifting – this is a tectonic shift which is as great in scale as the shift from print to desktop,'he said.
But Grimshaw also acknowledged that publishers faced a 'big headache'– the difficulty in monetising mobile news.
He quoted figures suggesting that on average mobile accounts for just 4-5 per cent of online revenue for most publishers.
He warned there were 'real blocks there which aren't being addressed by the industry and not being addressed by the technology providers".
'The result is a huge audience, huge desire from advertisers to reach that audience but broken connections in the middle, and there's no immediate sign of it being fixed,'he said.
While the FT's advertising business had been 'robust'since 2007, its subscription business had 'exploded", said Grimshaw, bringing the business to a 'fifty-fifty point'between subscriptions and ad revenue.
Asked when paid-for revenue will overtake ads, he replied: 'We will be reaching that balance point this year."
While the group was confident that mobile could offer 'lucrative'advertising revenue, Grimshaw admitted that it was unable to 'unlock'it.
Instead, the focus has been on growing subscriptions.
'The content revenues are in many ways much more comfortable to work with than advertising revenues,'he said.
'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.
'But what we're finding is as we shift the balance we're ending up with a business which is fundamentally more stable, more predictable, and is making it easier for us to make long-term investment decisions.
'We think it's making us healthier and putting us in a better position."
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