FT web app

MD of FT.com: The web app has been 'successful beyond our wildest dreams'

The Financial Times expects 50 per cent of its digital audience will be accessing via mobile devices within three years.

Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com, today said he expects the publisher's mobile readership to grow from where it now stands at a quarter to half of the total digital audience. Around 30 per cent of FT.com subscribers currently access digital content via mobile phones, tablets and other devices.

Grimshaw said the FT's digital content could soon be different from the publication's print offering, suggesting that the newspaper would be a more "reflective summary".

"We're going to have to start tweaking," he said in a presentation titled 'Beyond the Desktop', saying that the the front page of the tablet app may carry different stories than the front page of the mobile app and the print publication. "We need to give editorial the tools to do that," he added.

He said the creation of the FT's live news desk launched in March, which gives a "first cut" of a news story, is part of a shift in editorial processes taking place as the news outlet positions itself for an increasingly mobile future.

The FT has also opened its API, which could "give subscribers access to content across platforms" such as the ability to read FT stories via the Flipboard social reader app.

Grimshaw said: "The primary interface with a device is going to be mobile.

"We have to get use to the idea that the future of news publishing is on mobile," adding that other news outlets have not yet realised this.

"Publishers are only just getting used to the desktop, but the audience has moved on."

He warned that there is "ruthless stuff out there" with "billions of dollars at stake" and publishers can get "caught up in this" if they do not innovate.

Grimshaw said that the moment the FT realised the pitfalls was when Apple changed its terms and conditions adding a 30 per cent levy to content sold via iTunes.

The FT's response was to release an HTML5 web app, giving the publisher ownership of its audience data "to allow us to go direct to our market place" and circumvent the 30 per cent.

The app, launched almost a year ago, has been "successful beyond our wildest dreams", Grimshaw added.

"I thought we might be able to hang on to our audience but it expanded by 50 per cent," he said.

Reflecting on why more publishers had not followed suit Grimshaw added: "Publishers should be far more confident in the power of their brands to draw people in to their content. There is no problem with discovery on the web."

Grimshaw said that the FT faces the same challenges as other businesses in making mobile advertising work.

"Its vital we make a commercial success out of mobile," he added.

To hear more from Rob Grimshaw listen to the interview below.

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