During a tour of the newsroom, new MD Rob Grimshaw told me the objective was to gather new users’ details for marketing: “We wanted to focus on building up the registered user base for certainly the first year, if not beyond. Subscription will continue to play a big part in our business model … and we might well add additional (premium) content that’s even more niche than some of the things you see on the site already.”
“A lot of the objectives that we had were speculative but we’re right at the track that we mapped out. We’re seeing not just more people registering but also people coming back more, taking more page views when they come.” FT.com was up to 7.1 million users in March (ABCe).
– Site redesign: A new look and feel is under development and will come “later on this year”. FT.com editor James Montgomery said page backgrounds will now come in trademark FT pink. The site will “in the next couple of weeks” begin embedding its videos on story pages, rather than in a separate video player – following the lead of BBC News, which saw video traffic double from the switch.
– Advertising: Grimshaw said a downturn is unavoidable in this economy but: “Over the next three to five years, “there’s going to be this big flood of money coming out of traditional media on to the web so, regardless of how the advertising economy is doing, the web should be pretty buoyant through that period”. Grimshaw said FT.com has had discussions to run ads from controversial behavioural ad targeter Phorm, describing it as “an interesting technology” though “there are clearly some privacy concerns around it that are legitimate to some extent” – so he’s watching and waiting before deciding to opt in.
– AP’s blogger ‘mistake’: Montgomery said of Associated Press’ embarrassing stipulations to bloggers last week: “I think they made a mistake being so heavy-handed about it. I absolutely wouldn’t want to do what the AP did. Sending cease-and-desist letters to bloggers because they’ve used five words of our copy isn’t going to get them far in the long run.” More FT blogs are due to launch, joining the Webby-winning FT Alphaville
– On WSJ.com nearly going free: Montgomery: “There were a number of people within Dow Jones (NYSE: NWS) who said that the Journal was going to go free but I don’t think it was ever as clear-cut as that. If it’s free online, why would anybody subscribe to Dow Jones again? That’s a multi-billion pound business. I think it was a bit of a
faint</strike feint by Dow Jones and it got everyone talking but I'm not sure it was as real as some people believed."
– The Cheng dynasty: Grimshaw’s predecessor Ien Cheng, who left for Google in recent weeks, had a more editorial background than Grimshaw, who was advertising director – but, with Grimshaw having proposed FT.com’s new access model right alongside Cheng, the move is about “continuity”, he said – a planned accession.