Yesterday myself and a few other tech and new media bloggers were invited down to the offices of the Financial Times to get a behind the scenes look at how they run the FT.com website.
The discussions were remarkably open with no questions being off limits and no restrictions on what we could photograph and video on mobile phones. In attendance were Neville Hobson, Robert Andrews from PaidContent, Roo Reynolds Metaverse Evangelist from IBM, Andrew Donoghue editor of ZDNet UK and Sarah Blow from Girly Geekdom.
The FT has a number of popular blogs and even uses WordPress which is always nice to see. They have a unique business model in that readers can view 5 articles a month before having to complete a free registration. Once you have viewed 30 articles in a month you need to subscribe to subscribe at a cost of Â£98.99 per year to get full access.
Of course this paid subscription model will limit traffic but it actually makes the FT more profitable because advertisers are willing to pay a much higher CPM to reach premium subscribers than casual visitors. Next time you see news sites boasting about traffic figures remember that the fact they are getting a million visitors from Digg and other social sites every month might not actually be adding much to the bottom line.
My strategy for the FT would probably be to try some kind of model offering users of popular social media sites free access like the WSJ does with Digg. Social media users are highly unlikely to ever register to read anything and the forced registration stops sites like the FT becoming popular on social sites.
Robert has posted some video of the newsroom and some comments from FT.com editor James Montgomery about how the AP was “heavy-handed” in sending cease and desist letters to bloggers.
Big thanks to the FT for inviting us and thanks to Hotwire PR for arranging it.