OLD Media Moves

FT to keep charging for online access

February 27, 2007

The Financial Times, which earlier had questioned whether to charge for access to its online news articles and data, is sticking to requiring that people subscribe to its web site, according to a story in the Guardian.

The paper, which has 90,000 online subscribers compared to more than 800,000 for the Wall Street Journal, likes those “rarefied” customers of business news.

Financial TimesRichard Wray wrote, “Chief executive Dame Marjorie Scardino, announcing a strong 19% rise in annual profits to £502m, admitted that FT.com is likely to continue to rely on subscriptions, retaining its so-called ‘chargewall’. ‘As debate online has become more diffuse – hundreds of thousands or millions of voices on each topic – it has become less helpful in a way,’ she said. ‘The trend now seems to be some sort of mediation and we think we might have a role there.’

“Her comments represent a U-turn. At the time of the company’s interim results in July she voiced concerns that the FT’s ability to take part in the online debate was being hampered by subscription rates. But yesterday she said that the 90,000 subscribers to FT.com represent a ‘rarefied audience’ including senior figures in business and politics. ‘We have found that to some extent with the quality of audience we have got we can provoke the discussion’. ‘This is not a typical online discussion where people do not reveal who they are,’ she said of some recent FT.com forums.

“Last year the Financial Times newspaper and website saw profits jump by £9m to £11m due to rising advertising and a raft of cost cuts – including axing 50 journalists and the creation of an integrated web and newspaper newsroom.”

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