Why the Financial Times charges for content and why it works for them

Good interview with John Ridding of Financial Times at Portfolio.com. Excerpts:

“We’re seeing strong numbers both on the print side and online. On the
print side, I think we are certainly the only quality newspaper in the
U.K. and possibly the world that’s increasing circulation despite the
fact that we’ve put up prices in the U.K. and in many markets.”

“So I think that underscores three things: one, the loyalty of our
audience; two, the incredible news that’s going on around the world in
business and finance; and three, if it’s must-have information, people
will pay for it.”

“The thinking was there are these huge waves of audience and traffic
driven by what we think of as the wave machines of the internet —
aggregators, blogs, the Drudge Report, all of which drive huge amounts
of traffic. The problem is, when you put subscription walls around
content sites, these waves of traffic can just bounce back off them.”

Quite often for traditional publishers, new technologies are seen as
a bit threat or challenge, and there are challenges resulting from it,
but I think the opportunities way outweigh the challenges. Video’s a
really good example. We’re now producing about 100 videos a month. Our
video downloads have doubled to about 30,000 per week. Editorially,
it’s fantastic because it gives you that immediacy.

From a commercial standpoint, meanwhile, it’s fantastic because you
can charge very premium rates, and it also gives us access to ad
budgets that we never had access to. People talk about the threat to
print advertising, and how it’s a shrinking pie and we’re all fighting
like wildcats for our share of it, which is true, but people forget
that new budgets are being opened to us because of new technology, so
we can go after TV budgets and video budgets that we couldn’t before.
So it’s important of itself, video, but it’s symbolically also very
important as an illustration of the kind of opportunities we wouldn’t
have had five years ago.”