February 27, 2015 / 8:35 AM / 5 years ago

FT to change the way it charges for digital news

(Reuters) - The Financial Times is changing the way it charges readers for digital access, shaking up the metered model it pioneered almost eight years ago, its chief executive officer said.

The newspaper, which is owned by Britain’s Pearson Plc, is rolling out a one-month trial service for $1, 1 euro or 1 pound that allows total digital access to the FT. After the trial, readers must pay for a full subscription if they want further access.

The FT expects paid trials to increase subscription rates by 11 percent to 29 percent. It will also offer certain free stories, as it did last year with its coverage of the Scottish referendum.

Currently, the FT allows non-subscribers to read eight articles per month for free before hitting a pay wall.

“How do you build a habit with a limit?” FT Chief Executive Officer John Ridding said in an interview on Thursday.

Ridding said that in 2014, the FT increased its total circulation 10 percent to a record high of 720,000. Of those subscribers, 504,000 are digital, up 21 percent from the end of 2013.

Profit for the year tripled on stable revenue, bringing margin to 10 percent.

The move to revamp digital subscriptions comes as more people access news on mobile devices and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. The FT said half of its traffic was through mobile.

“Everything is fragmenting,” Ridding said. “There is a much more diverse source of news and opportunities. The home page is declining in importance.”

The FT also expects later this year to introduce a newly designed website that will be “mobile first” in its approach.

The newspaper analyzed data that looked at readers over a 90-day period, scoring them based on the frequency of their visits and the volume of stories they consumed to determine potential subscriber acquisition and retention.

The FT was one of the first newspapers to charge for its content online and is closely watched in the news business. It has changed its model in the 14 years since it introduced a pay wall.

In 2007, it switched to a metered model that is widely imitated in the news industry. For example, The New York Times began using a metered model for its digital products in 2011.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn

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