The cost of the FT vs. its competitors
Salmon writes, “What’s more, at least for readers in the US, the FT isn’t remotely comprehensive enough to suffice as a one-stop shop for business news. The FT has some fantastic content, but it needs to be read in addition to, rather than instead of, the NYT / WSJ / Reuters / Bloomberg. As a result, you need to be really price-insensitive to buy it: you can get access to all four of those sources online for less than the price of a single premium FT subscription. When a five-course meal costs twice as much as a four-course meal, you generally go with the four courses.
“And as I can attest, because news is social, you don’t end up reading the FT very much even after you’ve paid through the nose for your subscription. I read news which is shared with me, and the people in my social circles don’t share FT stories all that often. In turn, I want to read news I can share, and it’s very hard to share FT stories, since I can’t assume that the people in my social circles, or the people reading Counterparties, have FT subscriptions.
“This I think is the real problem with the FT’s pricing strategy. In the old world, the more you charged for a subscription, the more it was valued, and the more your journal was read by its subscribers. In the social world, the more you charge for a subscription, the less it gets read by its subscribers. As a result, the amount I end up paying per story that I read becomes enormous. I kinda wish the FT had a ticker, like the NYT did at one point, telling me how many stories I’ve read this month. It would give me some kind of masochistic thrill, working out what vast sum I was paying per article. Either way, over the long term, the marginal cost of reading an FT article will become so high that even business-news junkies like myself won’t be able to justify it any more.
“On the other hand, there could be a silver lining here. The FT’s pricing doesn’t make sense as a long-term strategy: it makes new-customer acquisition extremely difficult, and it only serves to remove the FT ever further from the minds of the global professionals it really wants to reach. As a short-term revenue-maximization strategy, on the other hand, charging people as much as $640 a year for an online-only subscription makes all the sense in the world.”
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