Financial Times’ Digital Subscribers Surpass Its Print Readers

The Financial Times’ digital subscribers surpassed its print customers for the first time, marking a milestone that the New York Times and other newspapers with so-called paywalls are aiming to reach.

The newspaper’s digital subscribers grew 31 percent to 300,000 paying readers, compared with a year ago, Financial Times owner Pearson Plc said today. Total circulation, including print, increased to almost 600,000.

“Our growth in this tough climate reflects the measures we took early on, especially to build our content revenues and to drive digital and mobile delivery,” Chief Executive Officer John Ridding said in a statement.

Newspapers are increasingly charging online users for content by putting up paywalls around some or all of their stories, a bid to offset the loss of advertising dollars to Internet companies such as Google Inc. The Financial Times was one of the first major newspapers to offer a metered payment plan: While some articles are available for free, readers need a subscription for unlimited access.

New York Times Co.’s paywall system, introduced last year, relies on a similar metered model. The company reported an 81 percent year-over-year increase in digital subscribers yesterday, reaching a total of 509,000 paying readers. That compares with the paper’s average weekday print circulation of 779,731, according to the most recent data from the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

The Wall Street Journal also charges online readers, though its print circulation is three times as large. The paper had print circulation of 1.57 million in the six-month period through March 31, compared with 552,288 digital subscribers, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Financial Times parent Pearson said its first-half profit shrank 9.6 percent as income from its professional training business declined. Adjusted operating profit fell to 188 million pounds ($296 million) from 208 million pounds a year earlier.

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