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FTChinese goes behind paywall in bid to diversify revenue

The Financial Times’ Chinese-language website has become the latest major Asian publisher to introduce a paid subscription model.

FTChinese, which first launched in 2005, will start charging subscribers S$41 per year for a basic subscription package and S$418 for a premium plan that includes tickets to its FTChinese Annual Forum.

The Nikkei-owned title’s move follows in the footsteps of business publisher rival Bloomberg, which intends to introduce a paywall on its news site, and Singapore’s The Straits Times, which has also started putting a significant chunk of its content behind a ‘premium’ tier.

Angela Mackay, managing director, Asia Pacific at the Financial Times, said: “The launch of a paid subscription model is a significant milestone for FTChinese and represents our long-term position as a major player in China. Most importantly, the new subscription model aligns FTChinese with the FT’s global strategy, which has proven very successful – the FT’s total paid circulation is 930,000 and growing.”

Globally The FT was among the first major publishers to introduce an online paywall back in 2001, although its model has undergone a number of revamps in the past 17 years.

Until now, the Chinese edition has been free to all registered subscribers, of which the title claims to have 2.7 million as of 2017 – a rise of 6 per cent upon the previous year.

Although digital subscriptions were – and still are – shunned by many media outlets due to fears of their effects on user numbers, recent success by The New York Times has led to a surge of publishers looking towards reader-revenue models.

As of 2017, The New York Times had 3 million digital and print subscribers and has set itself a target of 10 million in the next few years.

According to a report from Axel Springer, these efforts have largely been led by a determination to reduce publishers’ traffic dependancy on the Facebook/Google duopoly, plus the dwindling returns of advertising on their inventory.

Tracy Zhang, publisher of FTChinese, added: “As the leading source of news for China’s top business executives and decision makers, FTChinese must continue to evolve to meet the changing needs and demands of our readers. The FTChinese audience needs news and analysis in real time, through numerous channels, in different formats and we have an unrivalled product in China that delivers exactly that.”

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