Financial Times has decided to go another way for their digital subscription offering, creating an app through HTML 5, allowing users to get the app experience through their Web browser.
Launched last week, the FT app is currently only optimized for iOS products; the Android market is next for apps.FT.com. In its first week, the app has had 100,000 users.
MB Christie, head of product development for the FT, notes that that development for different platforms (Android, etc.) will be quick, as testing the product in different browsing environments is the only step before FT can hit all platforms.
There are various reasons why FT decided to go the HTML app route, as the publication already has a strong digital presence. 15 percent of last year’s digital subscription downloads were through a mobile device, and FT wants to offer content that resizes to smartphone screens, and mini and maxi tablets. Christie references that 50 percent of computers purchased in 2011 are predicted to not be PCs (per Deloitte).
Through the HTML app, FT will feature video and other enhanced features. The content through the HTML 5 app can also be read offline, as data can be stored offline via HTML 5. Through Web browser access, there are automatic updates to the app, as the product refreshes itself without user download, as apps through the App Store require.
The digital and print pricing is already in place for the Financial Times with their metered model, and the billing system for the HTML product is the same as the structure for the digital and print subs.
FT began to develop the HTML app in 2010, with the big push for completion in 2011. As Christie says, this decision to go through HTML for the FT app was made before Apple introduced its subscription model to publishers.
In regards to Apple’s subscription model, Christie says, “By not knowing who are our customers are, we can’t give access to all devices, if you signed up. [Not giving the 30 percent cut of purchases] is a side benefit of not having to go through the Apple cycle. However, it would have been a different conversation if the data was available.”
As Christie points out, only 50 percent of consumers who buy through the App Store opt to share their data with the publishers they are purchasing products from. “The metered model doesn’t work when you don’t get the info. Apple also doesn’t support corporate accounts.”
However, FT remains in talks with Apple and will continue to consider their terms, according to a FT spokesperson.
As far as advertising, staff have been selling packages to advertisers under “tablet advertising”, not “iPad advertising”. Christie reinforces that advertiser interest has grown since the launch of apps.FT.com last week.
Due to Apple’s new subscription rules that will be put in effect on June 30, the Apple FT app that requires subscription may be removed from the App Store. Other FT products, such as Little Books of Business Travel, will remain available from Apple.
In deciding to launch an HTML app in addition to FT’s digital presence, Christie says, “Besides being able to access it offline, apps have a beginning, middle and end. As opposed to searching the Web, you feel like you’ve actually read today’s paper.”
Other publishers, such as Playboy, have also decided to take the HTML route. iPlayboy.com was launched in May, though the publication may have had different reasons to go through the Web instead of an app; Apple is known for its strict handle on acceptable content that can be purchased through iTunes.