If you were to make a list of the most venerable and well-known publications in the world, the Financial Times would be towards the top. Over the course of its existence it has been a watchword for in-depth economic news, and recent endeavours have seen it pivoting more towards analysis and a closer relationship between its print and digital products.
It’s a solid business model, and combined with its unique position in Europe makes its acquisition by Nikkei in July of last year easy to understand. There isn’t another publication quite like the Financial Times, and its 805,000 paying subscribers are testament to that. Speaking at Web Summit earlier this week, its chief product and information officer Cait O’Riordan explained how the publication’s focus on accurate journalism encourages people to move along the funnel from free user to paid subscriber:
“We reached a milestone whereby more than half of our revenue comes from digital, which has proved successful for us.
“It’s not an easy business but… by concentrating on the way people want to access content has successfully proved the FT… has value in a digital age. The really interesting thing is that when people think about the FT product they think about the journalism. Largely the way people consume news is not in its most basic form, all that different. It is text on a page, whether that is on a computer screen, tablet screen, or newspaper.”
As a result of that focus on making the journalism accessible no matter where it appears, last month saw the FT redesign its website to prioritise ease of use, with a particular focus on increasing page load speed on mobile. That’s all the more important since more than half of the FT’s traffic comes on mobile devices, so increasing that initial engagement is paramount. O’Riordan explains:
“The measure that we really care about is engagement. We know that if we can get people to come back more often… we know that if we can get people up their engagement score, they are more likely to [enter the payment funnel].
“If you can speed up the site by one second you are actually putting money in your pocket.”
The FT is very data-centric when it comes to encouraging users to sign up for more services. It gives each of its users an engagement score, which can be tracked and ideally increased whenever possible:
“We know that if someone goes from a non MyFT user to a MyFT user their engagement score will go up by 35 percent. It’s not just that it makes the content more personally relevant, it is that they have invested slightly in the FT.”
Since the FT is medium-agnostic but quality-centric, it is investing in new forms of journalism. In August its Hidden Cities team launched its first 360 video project in partnership with Google. O’Riordan believes that VR, too, could be one of the FT’s propositions that lead people through the funnel into paid subscriptions:
“We will indeed do some VR and do that in the place it makes sense, the longform, high in quality content. That’s content we are investing in. That’s about the content you can create that takes you deeper into the story.”
Ultimately, though, as with all publications, it’s the deep understanding of its subject matter that makes the FT such a valuable product for its audience. The last few months have been incredibly complicated, with events like Brexit having far-reaching effects on the world economy and individual’s pay-packets and everything in between. O’Riordan says that Brexit was an opportunity for the FT, with many new subscriptions sold to people desperate for access to the FT’s expertise.
“In a world which does seem phenomenally confusing people genuinely value the view of the experts. We are the FT; there is a certain brand associated with that. It is really exciting to see new audience coming to it afresh.”