Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Financial Times property, Investors Chronicle, enters the Apple Newsstand with a replica edition through YUDU

The Financial Times Ltd today released a new Newsstand app for one of its trade magazines, but the launch in no way signals any change in direction for the financial news organization. The app launched is for Investors Chronicle, a replica edition of the print magazine produced by YUDU Ltd.

The app is actually the second from the magazine title, YUDU having released a replica for Investors Chronicle Investment Guides earlier this year.

The publisher of the business magazine is between a rock and a hard place: the FT has made it clear that it wants to stay as far away from Apple in-app purchasing policies as possible, if only on principle, and the publisher of this magazine needs to move into digital publishing. Left with few good choices Investors Chronicle picked one of the bad ones, at least for now.

The problem is that the whole issue of the FT inside or outside the Apple ecosystem is a silly argument. The FT could have succeeded in selling subscriptions with an app, with a web app, with a Newsstand app. The reason is that the one category where digital media success is all but assured is the financial publications were the reader buys the publication as part of their business information needs. If you make money through timely information ponying up for a subscription to the WSJ, FT or other publications is not only a no-brainer, it is essential.

I learned this lesson many years ago while a publisher at McGraw-Hill. My daily newspaper cost a fortune, around $1,500 a year when I joined up in the early nineties. Readers felt the information contained in the publication was essential for their business, and without it they were all but out of business. But the audience for that information was small. So to reach a larger audience with a product that could support more advertising we needed to launch something – and we did, the first magazine I ever launched and managed. That magazine was inserted into the newspaper one day a month to the small readership of the newspaper, and then the printed mailed about 10,000 more copies to readers on our lists.

I don't believe the FT is making a mistake depending on its web app for digital media sales. I think the FT is making a mistake not launching new products into the Apple Newsstand (as well as Google Play, Amazon.com and other platforms and digital newsstands). The FT could make these outlets their test kitchens, trying out new markets and formats. But I think ideology is more at play here than smart, pragmatic publishing. In other words, its bad business.