Commentary

'FT' Provides More Lessons On Importance Of Reader Revenue

Subscription revenue has become a bigger priority for many publishers that have struggled with declines in advertising sales. The ideal formula is to boost reader revenue, while also increasing digital ad revenue, as the Financial Timessaid it did last year.

John Ridding, CEO of the Financial Times Group, last week said news publishers could "have your cake and eat it" with subscription and digital ad growth, the Press Gazette reported. The formula requires a strong foundation in reader revenue, he said.

The financial newspaper's digital ad revenue last year rose 30% and surpassed its print ad sales in the fourth quarter. Digital revenue, including subscriptions, is now its biggest source of sales, and three times bigger than revs from print ads, Ridding said.
He cited audience data as an important part of its digital ad growth, echoing what other news publishers have said about harnessing reader information to improve targeting for advertisers. That first-party information is likely to become more valuable as marketers confront the loss of third-party cookies and device identifiers to track online audiences.
The FT introduced a paywall in 2002, six years after The Wall Street Journal was one of the first major publishers to require readers to pay for online access. The publications are similar in reaching a moneyed audience that is willing to pay for news and information that affect managerial and investment decisions.
“It means news media can be a growth story,” Ridding said. “For others who left it late and chose to focus on scale, reach and advertising, it involves casualties and consolidation. We saw that last year with the retrenchment of some of the main challengers from new news media, and we’ll see more this year.”
The Press Gazette in December reported the FTcut more than 60 workers from its global staff of 2,300 as the financial publisher swung to a loss.

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