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Analytics boost digital subscribers

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In 2009, the Financial Times reported a solid uptick in its number of digital subscriptions, which increased 15% to 126,000. All the while, engines designed to accelerate that growth were quietly being revved up behind the scenes.

The results of investments in content, technology, marketing and strategy were revealed in preliminary annual results recently released by FT parent Pearson. Digital subscriptions to the brand increased more than 50%, topping 200,000 in 2010, with paid combined print and digital circulation coming in just shy of 600,000 by year-end.

FT's metered pricing model is a key factor in the growth. Before being required to pay, users can view 10 free articles, for which they must first register. In 2010 the number of registered users increased 79% to more than 3 million.

The second critical element is the conversion process from registrant to customer.

“We are definitely using data and analytics to create very close relationships with our customers,” said Elissa Tomasetti, VP-marketing and audience development at FT. “We utilize digital tools and modeling to understand our customers' preferences and give them a better, more customized experience. This enables us to move customers through a subscription funnel and better monetize them.”

Using technologies such as Autonomy Corp.'s Optimost, FT can automatically serve up messages based on the preferences users provided when they registered, as well as their behavior on FT.com.

The boost in subscriptions that has come from new mobile devices was somewhat surprising, Tomasetti said. “Mobile is driving 20% of our new digital subscriptions, and registered users who have come from mobile platforms and tablet devices are 2½ times more likely to subscribe to our digital suite of services [than other registrants],” she said. “We are seeing two-thirds of our mobile acquisition in the U.S., which is a focus area for us.”

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