FT's web-based future

In early 2009 – more than a year before the launch of the first iPad – The Financial Times (FT) has already debuted its smartphone app; 16 months later, it joined the Apple Store family.

In August 2011, it jumped ship as the online store required 30% of the revenue made from subscription fees. Now, readers – whether on mobile or tablet – have to browse the newspaper through a web app.

Though its practices go against what most other newspapers are doing, FT.com's managing director Rob Grimshaw (pictured) said it’s not about to change any time soon, mainly because its mobile platforms now generate 25% of traffic to the site and 15% of new subscriptions – giving the site a 17% year-on-year growth in mid-2012.

“It establishes a direct relationship with the subscriber and gives us a greater understanding of what they want from us,” he said, adding that the newspaper no longer needs to rely on Apple Store’s in-house promotional methods but can bank on general web promotion techniques that can grab more eyeballs and are easier to control.

The web app, which is shared across all digital platforms, is up for a revamp in March – a month after The FT's 125th anniversary.

Though Grimshaw kept the surprises up his sleeves, he said that the content will be tailored to different platforms such as live snippets for smartphones, in-depth features for tablets and easier-to-use search platforms for the desktop readers.

In terms of design, the web app on all platforms will continue to provide an infinite source of information drawn from its online portal rather than The Economist’s approach of giving a finite magazine experience on the tablet.

The success in online may entail the downfall of print, but Grimshaw – who admits he’s a digital person now – said the shift in business is necessary to keep the publisher alive, especially when 50-plus percent of the revenue comes from content.

“Newspapers live and die by their ability to satisfy their readers; wherever they are, we have to move with them if we want to be around for a long time,” he said, citing that the newspapers should have at least decades longer to survive.