The $64 million question in media is whether readers will pay for content when it is delivered digitally. The first phase of the digitization of the media that took place during the decade that just passed was built upon the presumption that audience size mattered above all. But when digital advertising failed to generate revenue at anywhere near the rate of print.
Today, PaidContent UK reports that the FT’s subscriptions are rising rapidly
“206,892 paying digital subscribers … up 71% year on year.” Daily print circulation: 390,121 (ABC: Dec 2010) – was 485,102 in 2000.
This is good news for a number of reasons. The New York Times has used the FT as a model for its paywall. The Times needs a successful digital strategy to survive. The world won’t end of the Times doesn’t make it but leaving news leadership to the financial world probably isn’t a great idea.
Secondly, it suggests the digital transition is shifting into a second phase that can push down into smaller, niche publications. Several new iPad-only publications have launched recently or are about to launch. However, it seems unlikely that any one distribution channel will be able to support a publication these days.
It’s not all good news. If you look at those numbers closely, the FT hasn’t had huge growth in a decade. They’ve added 20% more readers but considering the growth of the financial system around the world and the importance of the FT’s subject matter, 20% is nice growth but not phenomenal.
Digital distribution should make it easier for a broader geographic range of readers to take the paper. Unfortunately, these numbers don’t tell us much about 100,000 subs that were lost from the paper edition vs. the 200,000 added digitally. One presumes a big chunk of the digital subs are spread farther and wider than than the paper subs.
FT’S Paid Digital Subs Up 71% In A Year (Paid Content UK)