Metered paywall changes corporate culture at Financial Times


Andrew Sollinger, managing director, U.S. commercial operations of the Financial Times, said that when the newspaper's Web site created a metered paywall in 2007, it gained the ability to identify its audience, segment readers and demonstrate engagement. The move also sent digital advertising soaring.

The Financial Times adopted the registration model and metered focus which allows anyone to visit the site, home page, and any section or category. If the user clicks on a headline, a registration questionnaire pops up, asking the reader certain questions in order to gather demographics. The user is allowed 10 free views per month. On the 11th view, a subscription pay barrier will appear, prompting the user to sign up and pay for FT’s content.

The FT’s frequency model has delivered more than 3.4 million registered users since its launch in October 2007. It now has 224,000 subscribers. began with allowing views to access 30 free articles per month.  Sollinger noticed that there weren’t a high number of subscribers because the 30 free articles were too high.

“It’s a learning process, testing different methods to see what works,” Sollinger said. “What is important is that you can come up with offers that you can learn from yourself.”

Sollinger said it is crucial to test how to appeal to the audience to make sure they keep coming back.  Sollinger uses data collected internally and externally to learn more about his audience. Demographics about the audience are determined through the subscription on the site. By studying the audience, FT can provide itself and potential advertising clients with crucial information about the kinds of people who are using their product or service.

Sollinger explained the research and data collection as a scientific process which revolves around testing processes with the audience. There isn’t always straight revenue coming out of this research, but it is testing different markets to recognise the audience. Sollinger developed the Deep View, which is the reader context + web blog + ad log. This gathers all the data from registration processes, ad campaigns, and what types of people and companies are looking their ads.

Good research and data depends on dedicated teamwork to produce such results, he said, and competing staffers are more likely to draft compelling clients. Produce challenges for your team — product development where the employees can produce fantastic product ideas. After ideas are produced, it is hard to choose the right one and decide which is likely to make the most money. Sollinger said print revenue streams are still huge, so don’t lose sight of them.

“Make sure content is profitable and high-quality,” Sollinger said. Exploit niches as well; take what readers have more interest in and magnify it.

The New York Times is contemplating whether to adopt the metered paywall method like FT.

“I am hoping that the New York Times will adopt the metered paywall because they produce must-have content,” Sollinger said.

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