Itís That Time: Financial Times Cut Off Looms
Posted On March 24, 2008
If you normally read the Financial Times online and find yourself missing its digital content on April 1, it’s no April Fools’ joke. Check to make sure you have the proper licensing under an agreement that went into effect April 1. Caspar de Bono, managing director of FT Business, says that as of mid-March, 160 organizations and six news aggregators had worked out a license agreement with the FT. "Any organization that would like to continue to have unlimited access to FT digital content needs to have a direct license," he says. The only exceptions to this rule are academic institutions and public libraries, which will continue to get embargoed FT content (delayed by 24 hours) without a direct license.
The FT licensing agreement should come as no surprise to readers. The details of the new access model were first announced 6 months ago on Oct. 1. (For details, see the NewsBreak "Financial Times Changes Access Rules—Again" by Barbara Brynko, http://newsbreaks.infotoday.com/nbReader.asp?ArticleId=39862.) Customers who are caught "mid-contract" with a third-party aggregator can make special transition arrangements, according to de Bono.
Publishing since 1888, the Financial Times constitutes one of the most important international business news sources. It has more than 500 journalists situated around the world. According to de Bono, one of the reasons for the new licensing model was to streamline customer access to FT content. He says that at least 15 different third parties had been licensed to carry FT content up to this point. As a result, customers could very well be paying many times for the exact same content across different platforms, he says.
The goal, he says, is to better serve customers by building a direct relationship with them. "We want to consolidate the effort of buying FT content in one place. We want to create a fair and transparent way of separating the value of FT content from the value provided by the news aggregations services," he says. "But that’s not to say that we’d like to rule out any third parties … we’d like our content to be available via as many platforms as possible."
Pricing will be consistent for all channels: Unlimited access for 10 or more people in an organization will be $3,956 per year. The cost per seat (or "Core User") decreases as more seats (20 or above) are purchased; the unit cost (about $395) is also the cost of access to FT.com Premium. As of the April 1 deadline, the FT will not be receiving any royalty payments from news aggregators for unlimited access to FT content, according to de Bono. Likewise, news aggregators will not be licensed or permitted to charge for access to FT digital content.
Questions as to how FT licensed corporate clients can guarantee third-party channels comply with this lack of permission remain. According to Diane Thieke, director of global public relations at Dow Jones’ Enterprise Media Group, "Dow Jones is compensated for its support of the FT business model when customers choose to receive the information through the Dow Jones Factiva platform."
FT has proven very rigorous in its policy of requiring direct relationships with all corporate clients. In November 2007, a month after announcing the new content license terms, FT introduced a "bridge agreement" option for corporate customers accessing its content via third-party platforms. During a "bridge" term, clients would not need to have a final annual license with FT in place; however, they would have to take out a "Bridge License" directly with FT. The bridge license period only lasts until January 2009 or whenever the customer renews its third-party contract, whichever comes first. In the interim, the third-party vendor will continue to pay royalties to FT. The period for applying to become a "Bridge Client" ended Jan. 31, 2008, the period for qualifying ended Feb. 28.
As of March 5, the list of FT’s third-party aggregators included 20 vendors. Nine already qualified as "authorized agents": Acquire Media (NewsEdge), Alacra, Bureau van Dijk, CEDROM SNI, Citywebwatch, Factiva, Genios, Internet Securities, and OneSource. Three of the nine—Bureau van Dijk, CEDROM SNI, and OneSource also support bridge agreements. The remaining eleven—ANP Business, Densan, EBSCO, Economist Intelligence Unit, InfoDesk, LexisNexis, Llesiant, Moreover, Thomson Scientific (Dialog/DataStar), and YellowBrix—were reported as "still in discussion." Of the eleven, only LexisNexis had a bridge agreement in place. According to Sue D’Agostino, vice president of corporate communications at LexisNexis, the company "hopes to reach an agreement." She expected that "customers who have an agreement with the FT and LN will continue to have access to the FT in group files similar to the manner in which they search today."
Dialog has FT content in two venues—merged with other news sources in Dialog NewsRoom and as the separately searchable, stand-alone File 476. According to Kevin Bonsor, marketing communications manager for Dialog and DataStar at Thomson Scientific, the company plans to send out an announcement to customers early this week. [When the announcement comes out, we will add that information to this NewsBreak. —Ed.]
Full information on the licensing process appears at www.ft.com/corporate. Anyone who wants to make arrangements for a license should contact email@example.com. FT.com also supplies three corporate packages for accessing different elements of its digital offerings. Questions may remain concerning the overlap between FT definitions of users and those of a third-party channel. ("‘Core Users’ means the number of Users set out in the Term Sheet authorised under this Agreement to receive unlimited Content through a Third Party Channel." "‘General Users’ means Users that are not Core Users but are authorised to receive or have access to Content under a third party Agreement, at the time of signature of this Agreement, less the number of Core Users authorised under this Agreement.") Other issues remain open to negotiation, e.g., multiyear contracts.
So what happens to individual users or small operations that do not need or cannot afford a 10-user minimum license? Our October NewsBreak supplied some relevant information:
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.
However, that would seem to mean that any such users who subscribe to third-party services would now have to go to FT.com directly to reach its content. No longer could they acquire access through searches of a third-party service. Separate searches at FT.com would be needed for every search where the users thought FT might have results of interest. However, archives on FT.com run just 5 years, not the full multidecade archives of the news aggregators. LexisNexis’ D’Agostino confirmed that the new licensing policy at FT would prevent them from servicing any client with fewer than 10 users.
Two institutional markets remain exempt from the new FT policy—academic institutions and public libraries. These customers operate under a 24-hour embargo for unlimited access to FT content. Of course, resident users could presumably go directly to the FT.com website for today’s information. The exemption apparently applies also to such users who acquire their access through third parties. Factiva’s Thieke reported that Factiva was working with its academic customers, while LexisNexis’ D’Agostino stated that academic institutions could continue to access FT content through LexisNexis’ campus offerings, even though LexisNexis did not currently qualify as an "authorized agent."
Interestingly, earlier this March, FT.com initiated a free subscription offering to college students, graduate and undergraduate, coming to them via Facebook college groups. As Ian Cheng, publisher and managing editor of FT.com, expressed it, "This application is part of our ongoing efforts to reach a new generation of readers who we hope will become life long fans of the FT." One may assume that when members of that "new generation" graduate, they will go to work for companies who believe in continuing their FT subscriptions at almost $400 per new hire.