Adapt or die. Like many traditional media companies, the Financial Times has had to evolve to meet its readers’ changing needs. It could no longer count on revenue from print subscriptions as they declined. Instead, FT had to address online competition head on, and adapt its subscription business model to be more nimble.FT CTO John O’Donovan told a recent roundtable hosted by Zuora, a cloud-based billing and subscription management services provider, “I challenge any company in any sector to turn off the technology and still work.”As it has invested in technology, FT learned some lessons along the way:
- To be successful, companies must have an innovative CIO on the board. He or she must understand subscription billing and technology and their importance to the big picture. Subscription billing must be reliable and easy to use, and it must capture key subscriber data to help the company develop long-term relationships with its customers.
- FT employs 30 data scientists to cull, analyze and interpret data. Every company with $1 million in revenue should have at least one in-house analyst, but the more analysts, the better. With thorough data, companies can grow revenue by really understanding their subscribers and what they want.
- The relationship with subscribers leads to more actionable data. For example, through its data gathering, FT learned that subscribers want different types of content served up in different formats at different times of day. Its subscribers want breaking news snippets in a mobile format early in the day, and longer, “slower” news later in the day on a PC or in print.
- Subscription technology must be wired to respond to new developments and quickly. Change in this industry is constant, so companies like FT must, at the very least, be poised for change. Ideally, they will drive change.
“As an organization, we do not want to be caught by surprise by the next thing the internet brings,” O’Donovan said. “Our mantra is about thinking and embracing all these things.”With subscriptions at an all-time high of 677,000 – with 455,000 being digital subscribers – FT is proving that digital adaptation is working.