FT.com Diversifies Revenues

By: Carl Sullivan

As London’s Financial Times has increased its print distribution in the U.S., the popularity of its Web site has also grown. In a November audit, FT.com had 2.47 million unique users, of which 670,000 were American.

In a recent interview with E&P Online, new FT.com Chief Operating Officer Zach Leonard said the online edition has been a significant driver of print subscriptions, which now total about 140,000 in the U.S.

Under new management, the site is diversifying its revenue streams while further integrating print and online efforts. “We want to achieve profitability by the end of the year, driven by a diverse revenue mix,” Leonard said last month. While advertising accounted for 90% of the site’s revenues in 1999, the goal is for ads to comprise about 50%, he said.

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday that FT.com would begin charging $140 per year for access to premium sections of the site. News and some sections would remain free to all, the Journal reported.

Leonard said content sales and licensing are growth areas, as are e-commerce and paid subscription services, such as mobile news in Europe and a custom research tool called askFT. “Think of it as a mini-Forrester or Gartner,” Leonard said, in reference to the well-known consulting firms. FT.com currently offers several free e-mail newsletters, but Leonard said the site is exploring ways of bringing subscription revenues via e-mail as well.

In e-commerce, the site is concentrating on tools to help users find financial services such as credit cards or mortgages.

FT.com also offers FT Fund Ratings, which cover European investment funds, and FT Pro, a desktop research service that is sold to company intranets, much like the Factiva service owned by Dow Jones and Reuters.

The ultimate goal is to cross-sell services to the business world. “We can sell bulk print subscriptions and seats to FT Pro and our mobile services — all at the same time,” Leonard said.

FT.com also continues to look for cost reductions. Like most online news operations, the site downsized last year. Leonard said the print and online operations continue to be integrated, both editorially and on the business side.

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