No newspaper is more keen on readers paying for content than the Financial Times. But one of the fastest-growing and most innovative parts of the paper’s website is planning a global expansion that’s free to all readers.
FT Alphaville – comprising a UK finance blog, live stock commentary and an analyst community – is growing to cover Wall Street and other markets, but remains outside FT.com’s pay wall. The blog’s founder and editor Paul Murphy, who just relocated to New York, from where Alphaville will now be run, says the aim is to “create a 24-hour global financial blog” that’s free to all.
– The future is free: “We don’t think we have any problem in saying ‘there’s the newspaper (content), that’s very valuable, people should pay for that’,” says Murphy. “But that doesn’t mean that you can’t also have a number of free blogs.” The editor says no plans are on the table to make AV part of FT.com’s much-discussed online paid strategy and stresses its effectiveness as a “sampling tool” for prospective FT.com subscribers. He says it “brings in readers who might not otherwise come in the front door”.
– Growth plans: Almost three years on from its October 2006 launch, Alphaville has grown to 500,000 unique monthly users and two million page views. On Manhattan, Murphy will launch US-specific versions of its 6am Cut newsletter and the popular daily Markets Live rolling finance commentary sessions. For the time being, The FT is happy to reap the publicity (it won a 2009 Webby award) and the extra digital footfall the site brings, if not profit from it directly.
– World domination: AV journalist Stacy-Marie Ishmael moved to New York last year. She is now joined by Murphy; Alphaville still has its London team and a Tokyo correspondent. But Murphy says the expansion need not end there: “The plan is to go global… We’d like to replicate the way the investment banking industry works.” Does that mean hiring more journalists? “You could; really we have to follow reader demand. There’s clearly demand in the US and a growing demand in Asia.”
– Alphaville going multimedia?: With FT Lex column journalists now opining on Bloomberg TV, the FT has a real appetite for multimedia — but does that stretch to Alphaville? “We’ve discussed lots of things. Things like the FT.com iPhone app have been very, very popular and yes we’d like to have one for Alphaville… Alphaville could be turned into all sorts of things”. The AV team has also discussed doing video, translating its analysis to PC screens, but the establishing of a loyal Wall Street audience is most immediate priority.