The Financial Times made headlines when it unveiled plans to allow limited free access to open Web users of its content. FT.com users can have up to 30 free full-text views per month (a "light-touch registration" is required after the first five); subscribers will be charged for any access that exceeds this quota. For unlimited access after the first 30 articles, customers have a choice of an annual standard ($109) or premium ($299) subscription. Perhaps more interesting, however, was the introduction of a new single license for corporate customers. The new license will apply to corporate customers accessing Financial Times (FT) content through any digital channel. FT (www.ft.com) is owned by Pearson PLC (www.pearson.com). In announcing the new license, FT stated that it wanted to ensure "a fair and transparent means" of delivering content as the world’s leading business newspaper reaching more than 1.3 million people.
The new FT Content license is designed to give users access to FT digital content through FT.com and third-party services, while separating payment for FT content from the actual cost of the service. In other words, users can tap FT content from a single point of purchase while keeping access rights across many points. One industry guru summed it up by saying, "The FT wants the direct relationship—no other options."
Caspar de Bono, FT’s managing director of the B2B division, said FT Content licensing will roll out officially in April 2008, thus giving customers and third-parties 6 months’ notice to make adjustments for the new arrangement. He explained FT’s three-fold reasoning for releasing the new licensing strategy: "First, the FT wants to establish a direct relationship with the corporate customers in relation to FT content, second, customers can buy FT content once and use it at any platform or buy it once and use many platforms, and third, we have dedicated support team to produce and deliver FT content."
FT is currently in discussions about the new Content license with several of its third-party aggregators: Acquire Media, Alacra, Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing, CEDROM SNI, Citywebwatch, Densan, Economist Intelligence Unit, Factiva, Genios, InfoDesk, LexisNexis, OneSource, Thomson Scientific (including Dialog), Thomson West (including Westlaw), and YellowBrix.
FT explained that it would like to continue to work with a variety of third parties so long as it gets paid for the value of its content and the third parties get paid for the value of the "excellent services that they bring." FT content will be available in print or digital form, depending on the customer. Ideally, the FT would like to deliver content in both formats, but it certainly isn’t a requirement, according to FAQs on its Web site.
Karin Borchert, vice president of content and operation for the Dow Jones (DJ) Enterprise Media Group, said "[W]e weren’t surprised" by the licensing news since DJ’s recent talks with the FT included discussions of possible new business models. We’re seeing a number of publishers using different business models," she said. Publishers are trying a variety of ways to boost print revenues these days, especially with print subscriptions versus online. "Publishers are feeling the pressure to find ways to generate more advertising dollars in print publications," she said. As for the impending FT licensing, Borchert said, "We’re still negotiating, but we want to wrap up the talks quickly so we can continue to serve our customers effectively."
Negotiations with Factiva are currently under way with FT to provide a single, unembargoed feed of FT content for organizations that have a direct FT content license by April 2008. Factiva customers who already have an FT license will continue to receive the unembargoed feed.
LexisNexis is also currently in discussions with FT to make sure that those customers who choose to enter into separate license agreements with FT continue to have the content delivered via the LexisNexis services, armed with its signature search and alerting tools and content repository. Any customers who sign a direct agreement with FT, according to LexisNexis, will receive an unembargoed feed via all LexisNexis solutions and services.
Until the April 2008 date, FT will make two content feeds available: one for FT content on the day of publication and a second separate embargoed feed delayed by 24 hours. Then, in April, customers will need an FT Content license to get the day-of-publication feed. The content license will create a direct relationship between FT and its corporate customers for access to FT content via FT.com and a range of third-party channels.
The FT Content licenses will apply to all corporations that want to buy access to FT content for 10 or more employees. The minimum contract is a flat fee per annum, which is one price globally (£199 per user, which is currently the equivalent of $398).
The FT Content licensing won’t be the only change around FT. Starting in mid-October, FT.com will be introducing enhancements including a new design, more data and research information, and interactive functionality. According to Ien Cheng, publisher of FT.com, the new licensing change will allow bloggers and news aggregators to link to content on FT.com, which now has 101,000 subscribers and 5.35 million unique monthly visitors (ABC electronic figures, March 2007). This access change may provide an added boost to online advertising.
Customers concerned about whether they will end up paying for content twice if they adopt a corporate package can rest easy. The new price and packaging options will work on a single license per user. For those FT clients who "may feel caught between the two business models," the FT expressed interest in supporting its "Bridge clients" by working with them to guarantee a smooth transition to FT offerings. FT promised to be flexible with clients currently working under a third-party contract. According to FT, if customers have existing digital licenses with FT and had the embargo lifted on content from Factiva, LexisNexis, Westlaw, or OneSource, they will continue to receive FT content.
Individuals can continue to purchase subscriptions to FT.com. The corporate licenses are designed for corporations that "wish to benefit from the economy of FT.com."FT, which now publishes about 400 articles per day, is printed at 24 print sites across the globe with a daily circulation of 426,850 (ABC figures, August 2007). The content on FT.com consolidates content from FT’s regional editions, as well as providing updates on stories during the day in four regional editions (U.K., U.S., Asia, and Europe). FT.com also stores FT content in an archive dating back more than 5 years and produces about 40 videos each month. Customized news alerts can be sent to desktop, inbox, mobile, or BlackBerry.