Digital publishing is like Internet retail for the FT
Matt Kinsman of Folio magazine interviewed Financial Times CEO John Ridding, a former journalist, about the business newspaper’s online strategy.
Here is an excerpt:
FOLIO: Financial Times had significant success in 2009 with digital subscriptions and digital revenue. How does 2010 compare? Does the model continue to be profitable? What have been the highlights of this shift? What areas didn’t go according to plan and how did you respond?
John Ridding: We’re pleased with the performance of our digital content engine and there are two pistons there. One is the FT.com’s subscription machine. The other, which people know less about, is corporate content. Both of those engines were up double digits in revenue growth. One is focused on the consumer market, through products such as FT.com, while the other revolves around corporate licensing. Every news organization has been at the mercy of the advertising cycle for decades. That makes it difficult to plan and manage a sustainable business and invest in quality journalism.
Our starting point is we need quality journalism and we need a business that can sustain quality journalism. When times get tough, there are two ways you can respond, including, as lot of publications have done, by trying to cut newsroom costs. The danger of that is you get into a death spiral by reducing the quality of what you’re doing and exacerbating the sales and readership issue. We took the view that everything would come down to the quality of our journalism, therefore we had to develop a business model that would support it. That meant increasing prices. We doubled the price of our newspapers in pretty much every market and we have the confidence to charge for our journalism online.
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