FT: “Mobile is New Number One for Our Subscribers”

The FT has acted boldly in dumping native app development in favour of creating a HTML5 web app for iOS, adding a wrapper for its Android app, as well as offering responsive web experiences.

Chief product manager of apps.ft.com Chris Smith said that when the platform war was won by Apple and Google, that ultimately meant a win for the web, so he could “stop designing for platforms and start designing great experiences for users.”

Smith said that not only do 30 per cent of online page views on the FT come from mobile, but that this increases to 50 per cent of traffic among subscribers. He calls mobile the ‘new number one’ for the FT’s audience. “Mobile also makes up 15 per cent of all new digital subscriptions too,” he said.

The FTs online customer base overtook print in 2012. “This was hugely important for how we think about digital properties and how we think about mobile,” he said. The company took hold of its data from app platforms, ensuring it can target ads using things like industry or seniority, as well as offering unified log-in. But all this digital innovation comes at a cost.

Although Smith said the FT is committed to keeping its print newspaper alive, because of ‘legacy and the cache of having a print publication’, it is undertaking a two-year quest to make the print version profitable, meaning unprofitable areas will close. “Where revenue and distribution do not justify keeping it, we will replace it with great digital products,” he said. Ultimately many of those would be ‘geographical’ decisions, he said, with a lot of print distribution cut in the US despite it being the FTs largest market.

Smith did emphasise that the mobile FT was just as, if not more, portable than the old FT.