Since implementing its pay structure the Financial Times has gone from generating 80% of revenue through advertising to 50%, but Fiona Spooner, head of acquisition marketing, said the move has allowed it to offer a different customer experience.
The title now has 4.5m registered users and 300,000 digital subscribers, and according to Spooner a key part of its strategy to get to that position has been to be “as transparent as possible”.
Talking on a panel at ad:tech, she said having a metered approach (which allows users to view eight articles a month once registered before being asked to subscribe) and the fact there is one subscription price for access to all digital platforms means it has a broad readership and can “talk to different customers at different parts of the journey”.
Also on the panel was Audra Martin, VP of engagement and operations at The Economist, which also has a paywall, but took a different approach to building its subscriber base.
Martin said it grew its audience first, got them to interact and then got them to the point where they wanted to subscribe.
She said, “It was more about getting people to engage with us and each other, getting the loyalty there and then trying to get them to register… We’re focused more on the beginning of the funnel.”
Chris Lawson, Guardian News and Media’s outgoing content sales and marketing director, said in terms of its digital audience, the majority consumes content on the web which is free, with a smaller number paying for access to the iPad or Kindle editions.
He said, “It is a smaller segment of very passionate readers. They are very engaged and they are our advocates. There are different levels of engagement in our audience.”
He added that the publisher no longer sees print as a place for breaking news as there are too many other ways of accessing content, “we see that as an extension now,” he said.
When it comes to building readership through social media, Spooner said, “People assume because we have a paywall we have a challenge with social media, but we have invested a lot into it… We have a customised barrier from social channels so we can talk about our free registration access and now we have the highest level of conversion through social [channels] that we have ever had.”
Similarly, Martin said that its readers are “great advocates [for the brand on social networks]… We find that a lot of that activity leads to interaction and page views, and there is an advocacy for sharing images, graphs and information.” However, she added, “There are still questions about how we convert that into actual subscriptions.”