FT.com pioneers change to charging

FT.com, the internet arm of the Financial Times, will on Monday announce an innovative charging system and a major expansion of the site, fuelling debate about newspapers’ online business models.

Newspapers have until now chosen between offering their content free, or charging on a subscription or “pay-per-view” basis. But Ien Cheng, publisher of FT.com, said the site would pioneer a new approach from mid-October. Articles and data will be free to users up to a total of 30 views a month. They will then be asked to subscribe for access to more material.

The change would allow bloggers and news aggregators to link to material previously available only to subscribers, Mr Cheng said, adding: “The figure of 30 is not random. We have studied carefully how people come to the site. We have always believed that the journalism we produce is worth something to our core users.

“This new model allows us to keep to that principle while making sure that our material is also made freer to the web universe.”

The move comes as growing online advertising revenues prompted the New York Times to end online subscriptions, and as Rupert Murdoch is considering abandoning subscriptions to increase traffic to the Wall Street Journal’s website after News Corp’s purchase of Dow Jones.

Enhancements to FT.com will include a new markets section, an expansion of its View from the Top video interviews to include European and Asian chief executives, and new blogs. Technical enhancements will also make the site faster.

John Ridding, chief executive of the Pearson-owned FT, said: “We believe many FT.com users, drawn by these changes and the quality of our journalism, will become regular and dedicated FT users and join the ranks of our existing subscribers.”

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