FT reboots mobile: Plans iPhone apps, commercial model unclear

The Financial Times has relaunched its mobile website to bring it in line with FT.com‘s recent redesign. The new look adds personalised stock listings – but the commercial model for mobile is yet to be determined.

Pay wall or ad-supported?: Desktop web visitors must subscribe to read more than 20 articles but, like the previous incarnation of m.ft.com, everything except the Lex column will remain free on mobile “for the time being”. Product manager Steven Pinches told us FT is improving its analytics ahead of deciding how to exploit the channel: “We’ve integrated the site with Bango (AIM: BGO) to identify users as they come through. We’re keeping our option open in terms of business model – we could go down the micropayment route, we could keep the content free or we could do ad-supported.” The mobile site already runs banner ads and Pinches said more advertisers are looking for integrated desktop/mobile packages. He put traffic for m.ft.com at “millions of page views” per month.

iPhone apps Interestingly, 60% of FT.com’s mobile users come via BlackBerry or iPhone – one a business handset, the other a trendy multimedia phone: “A lot of users are in the demographic where they have big enough pockets, in both senses on the word, for both devices.” So, inspired by Bloomberg‘s effort, the paper is also developing a dedicated iPhone app to feature prettier stock charts and content sharable via Address Book. “There’s only so much we can do on the web – we want to improve the market data side of things,” Pinches said. “It’s too tempting – the iPhone lends itself to lovely swirling data and graphs.” Despite the mock-up image here, iPhone visitors to http://www.ft.com won’t be directed to the more spartan m.ft.com.

Conversations are also happening with BlackBerry ahead of its app store launch and other platforms will be considered, too. A Java news reader offered already offered to premium subscribers will be retained and the paper is also considering delivering “audio” to mobile, though it’s not clear whether this means podcasts or an extension of its Cityline phone info service.

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