Jinfo BlogA chink in the FT's paywall

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By Penny Crossland

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The Financial Times is hailed as a successful example of how paywalls can work for newspapers, but how do you ensure that today’s net savvy news searchers become tomorrow’s FT readers? The answer is: ‘you play them at their own game’. Business Insider has broken the news (http://digbig.com/5bbkbp) that the Financial Times will soon be targeting students –and possible future business leaders and FT readers amongst them – by allowing them to ‘unlock’ Ft.com’s online subscription in order to access articles. The newspaper has struck a deal with location-based social networking site Foursquare (http://foursquare.com). The site works on a points system: these are awarded when registered users connect with friends and update their location via their mobile phones. According to Business Insider, the Foursquare deal will provide free Ft.com subscriptions to users who ‘check in’ to selected locations such as cafes that are situated in business districts or universities – Harvard, Columbia, London Business School and the London School of Economics amongst others. Checking in on Foursquare will earn users a secret code, which in turn will allow them to unlock a subscription. Given its adamant defence of the paywall business model, some industry watchers have been surprised to hear of the FT’s bid to engage with younger readers in this way. However, the move makes sound sense – it means that the paper can continue to promote its metered model, while at same time ensure that the younger generation will contribute towards its digital revenues. As Tim Buckley Owen reported in February this year (http://www.vivavip.com/go/e27877 ), the FT’s digital operations reported impressive growth in 2009, with its paid subscriber base growing by 15% to 126,000 and registered users increasing by 85% to 1.8 million. According to New Media Age (http://digbig.com/5bbkbq) , the paper’s digital operations now account for 31% (or £1.7bn) of FT Publishing’s revenues.

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