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FT ups digital efforts

The Financial Times relaunched its Web site on Monday, fresh on the heels of an October jump in Web traffic and print circulation numbers.

FT.com, reworked for the first time in six years, now features five updated homepages, including a new Middle East edition. The new site also showcases a homepage “Top 10” list of stories hand-picked by editors, market data, portfolio tools, RSS feeds and keyword alerts. The site, displayed in the FT’s trademark pink hue, also has fewer ads.

“The redesign reflects a kind of development in our strategic thinking, where digital has come very much to the fore in terms of how we’re planning for the future,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com. “We did a lot of work on the access model to FT.com [in 2007], which has been very successful, and now we have 100K subscribers. The next line of attack was thinking how to approach it editorially. It’s not a straight transition between print and online. We’re moving to multichannel where our readers are going to want to access FT through many different channels, and we have to be equipped to deliver that to them and be coherent across all those channels.”  

Site users can anonymously access four articles a month for free. For 20 free articles per month, users are asked to register, and for more they must become paid subscribers. The site already has 800,000 registered users and 100,000 subscribers. The site is one of the biggest drivers of FT print subscriptions, and bundled subscriptions to both print and Web are offered.

Grimshaw describes the FT.com audience as “niche”: the world’s few million international business decision makers. As of March 2008, the site recorded 7.1 million unique visitors, and traffic has doubled over the course of the current economic crisis. About 40% of FT.com users also are readers of the paper, but the online audience tends to skew a little younger than print and is more evenly split between male and female readers.

Success of the new site will be judged by the engagement of these core audience members. To increase page views and time spent on the site, FT.com is developing better tools and more community forums and discussion groups.

Updates to the site are slated for incremental roll-outs through 2009. FT.com also will work on improving its SEO platform, which generates about 10% of the site’s traffic.

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