The Web site of The Financial Times, FT.com, had more than one million registered users in 2001…
“After a year, we had 50,000 subscribers,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com. Eight years later, the figure is up to 109,000, he said, a small portion of the number of readers who visit the site.
In other words, it took the FT one year to get its first 50,000 subscribers; it took another eight years to get its second 50,000 subscribers. And that’s despite arm-twisting tactics: if you think that the subscription firewall is high in the US, just wait till you see what it looks like in the UK.
If you live in the UK, your monthly quota of articles before you’re forced to cough up for a subscription has now fallen to just 10. Talk about incentivizing your readers to try their hardest to stay away from the site!
Even so, the FT doesn’t seem to be able to increase its subscriber base very much. It’s worth noting that if you subscribe to the physical paper in the US, the marginal cost of a website subscription is zero. And if you can only grow your subscriber base by 10% a year when you’re giving those subscriptions away, I’m not convinced that you’ve hit on a particularly clever business model.