Subscription website datapoint of the day

By Felix Salmon
April 8, 2009
If you live in the UK, your monthly quota of articles before you're forced to cough up for a subscription has now fallen to just 10. ... And if you can only grow your subscriber base by 10% a year when you're giving those subscriptions away , I'm not convinced that you've hit on a particularly clever business model. " data-share-img="" data-share="twitter,facebook,linkedin,reddit,google" data-share-count="true">

The NYT gets some subscriber numbers out of the FT’s Rob Grimshaw:

The Web site of The Financial Times,, had more than one million registered users in 2001…

“After a year, we had 50,000 subscribers,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of Eight years later, the figure is up to 109,000, he said, a small portion of the number of readers who visit the site.

In other words, it took the FT one year to get its first 50,000 subscribers; it took another eight years to get its second 50,000 subscribers. And that’s despite arm-twisting tactics: if you think that the subscription firewall is high in the US, just wait till you see what it looks like in the UK.


If you live in the UK, your monthly quota of articles before you’re forced to cough up for a subscription has now fallen to just 10. Talk about incentivizing your readers to try their hardest to stay away from the site!

Even so, the FT doesn’t seem to be able to increase its subscriber base very much. It’s worth noting that if you subscribe to the physical paper in the US, the marginal cost of a website subscription is zero. And if you can only grow your subscriber base by 10% a year when you’re giving those subscriptions away, I’m not convinced that you’ve hit on a particularly clever business model.


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I went to read the New York Times article but it was stuck behind the membership wall. As usual, I just moved on to something else instead.

I have to wonder how dramatically that user info actually raises display ad CPMs. Since I would guess that a large part of the forced membership includes fake data, they might just be passing the pain on to greedy advertisers.

“if you subscribe to the physical paper in the US, the marginal cost of a website subscription is zero”

Don’t know if there are different types of physical paper subscriptions (I had the ultra-discounted variety), but I’m in the US and had to pay separately for web access.

Posted by Anon | Report as abusive

Yes, but where else apart from the FT are you going to be able to put a question on the Russian presidential election directly to a man who used to work for the Russian army’s central staff and has just taken a post as senior adviser to NATO on Russian military affairs?

Let’s face it, if Reuters are determined to go downmarket by replacing their analysts with ten-a-penny bloggers, my first stop for news and analysis may just be about to change….

Posted by Ian Kemmish | Report as abusive

Felix, could you screw up this story any more? Try not making things up. First of all, the wall has been 10 in the U.S. for months if not a year. Second, the marginal cost of print is not zero. its about 100 bucks a year in the US. In other countries, its much higher. They do not offer adiscounted bundle. In the US digital is $180 for basic and $100 for print, whether you buy them together or separately. AND PRINT IS CHEAPER. I used to like you and Jeff over at Portfolio but this story is so embarassing, I don’t know that I can trust your content ever again.

Posted by The Truth | Report as abusive

Reading as much of the FT site as I want is actually not that hard. Whenever I need to read something, I just delete the ft cookie.

Posted by seanmatthews | Report as abusive

Slow Economy! ? Investors! Let’s cooperate and buy gold from public and help people survive these days! I can sell their broken jewelry and scrap gold with profits for you! Check my website lets cooperate in helping people paying their bills! We can also set up manufacturing of jewelry so we will create jobs for American workers, we have experienced manufacturing managers and people that have been running steady businesses here in Downtown Jewelry District! Let’s make people buying Made in USA merchandise by giving them quality product. Thank you!

Mr The Truth, if you read what I read a bit more carefully, you’ll see that I never said the marginal cost of print was zero. Yes, the cost of a print subscription is more than the cost of a web subscription. I said that the marginal cost of the web subscription is zero: if you buy a print subscription, they throw the web subscription in for free.

Posted by Felix Salmon | Report as abusive

This news daily should be free to all. They could try to monetize thier content using publishing affiliate ..

Which is why I have given up trying to read the articles on and just read the informed blogs on ft alphaville instead. I’ll occasionally read the print version.

Ian Kemmish, your comment is valid but how many people actually need to comment directly with such high level opinion formers? A few I suspect and they will subscribe to the ft anyway, I think the ft alphaville model allows them to keep their advertisers happy.

Posted by Kurt Carroll | Report as abusive

Where does it say a UK registered subscriber’s monthly quota is now only 10 articles? I thought it was 30, but your claim spurred me to check on To my slight surprise it said the quota is 20! So I was wrong, but on my data you are too!

Posted by Mr. Ugly | Report as abusive