Can publishers stand up to the might of the online ad giants when it comes to mobile? FT.com's managing director Rob Grimshaw seems to think so and when I caught up with him at the OMMA Europe conference, he explained how using the power of brands to take control of advertising and subscriptions is key.
And as he also tells me in the video below, the FT is expecting to keep growing in mobile and is investing in new markets with a new version of the FT's HTML5 app optimised for Brazilian readers in the pipeline for later this year
Grimshaw's key point is that publishers are at risk of losing out because of the dominance of Google and its fellow ad giants.
Google currently controls more than half of all net mobile ad revenues in the US, according to stats cited by Grimshaw, with Facebook, Apple, Twitter and internet radio service Pandora accounting for much of the rest. If that trend continues, there won't be much left for publishers.
"The advent of mobile is very different for publishers compared to the web. With the web it was publishers who got out there and experimented, and it took a number of years before ad networks and Google emrged with own models.
"Mobile is a very different landscape. There are a whole bunch of firms who have already got there. If you play this forward and think about a world where majority (of readers) are accessing through mobile, but if (the revenue) split looks like this, that’s very bad news for publishers."
Mobile growth in paid content and ads
-- Mobile signups: 15 to 20 percent of the FT's new subscriptions each week come through mobile - even though Grimshaw says the mobile sign-up page isn't quite up to scratch. He plans to improve that sign-up process, and he expects mobile sign ups to rise as a result.
-- Mobile ads: More than 10 per cent of the FT's ad revenue comes from mobile devices.
-- HTML5: The FT's switch to HTML5 not only bypassed Apple's app store, saving the FT the 30 percent cut it was paying out, it also increasing unique users by 77 per cent since the HTML5 apps launch.
Running through the whole mobile strategy is Grimshaw's determination to take control of the FT's revenue streams in an ecosystem littered with partners and rivals.
So when the FT was looking for a way to serve ads on mobile, it was faced with two choices. Hard-coding ads into an app would deliver rich media ads, but would be expensive and make it hard to measure their effectiveness. In contrast, teaming up with an ad network would deliver poor quality ads, and force the FT to share its revenues.
"We could either do ad-serving at very low quality, or we could do rich media but it would be hard coding and no information. It just didn't stack up for us," he says.
"We knew we needed to offer advertisers a high quality experience to monetise it properly. If all you can offer is a standard gif there is a limit to what advertisers will pay. In both cases you are only taking a fraction of value."
Instead, the FT decided to tackle the process of serving ads itself.
"It is a hard road but it is worth going down. We are taking this proposition out to the marketplace and saying you can do your targeting. We find advertisers absolutely do view mobile as branding environment when tyou give them the tools to do it."