Financial Times targets U.S. and global readers with subscription app products

The Financial Times has launched another subscription-based mobile app product a year after the debut of FT Edit to reach readers outside of its U.K. home base and offer a lower-priced option to convert them into paying subscribers.

Called the FT Digital Edition, the standalone subscription initially launched in 2020 on desktop as a digital version of the FT’s print newspaper and weekly magazine. It now has 12,000 subscribers in the U.S., according to Nicola Halstead, the FT’s director of print subscriptions and digital editions. The mobile app version went live last week, and she declined to share how much the product overall has grown in the past year.

About 55% of Digital Edition subscribers and 40% of FT Edit monthly users are now based in the U.S., according to Halstead. The FT has 1.3 million print and digital subscriptions, the same number as earlier this year, with roughly 1.2 million digital subscribers. Halstead said about 20% of the FT’s subscribers are based in the U.S. — the same share the FT told Digiday in March, when it had 1.3 million global paid subscribers.  

The FT Digital Edition app is a way to serve readers who are difficult to reach with the physical newspaper, Halstead said. The FT has three print sites in the U.S. (compared to The New York Times’ two dozen or so sites). 

The app is also another example of the publisher providing a lower-priced subscription product offering on mobile. In the U.S, a subscription to FT Digital Edition costs $9.99 a month and FT Edit costs $4.99 a month, compared to the FT’s digital subscription price of $40 (or $69 a month for the premium tier). In a similar move to offer a lower-priced paid product, The Economist relaunched its Espresso news app last year for $7.99 a month.

“A lower priced tier makes sense if [a publisher has] a large enough audience not willing to pay for the higher-priced tier. You also need a clear distinction in features and value between the lower [versus] premium tiers,” Arvid Tchivzhel, managing director of the digital consulting practice at Mather Economics, told Digiday. 

The risk is cannibalization – customers could downgrade if the tiers are too similar, he added. E-editions of newspapers in particular are typically used as a retention tool, and a way to “transition print readers to form digital habits,” Tchivzhel said.

Halstead said the FT has exceeded its subscription targets this year, but did not say what they were.

The Financial Times plans to promote its new app in the fourth quarter with influencer and digital campaigns, Halstead said, without saying how much they will cost — or which channels will be used for advertisements. The subscription will be available for purchase for the same price in Android and iOS app stores by early November, the first FT app to offer that option. Previously, readers had to go to the FT’s site to pay for the subscription and download the app.

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