Most FT Readers Have Already Ditched iOS App, But It Can Still Make Money

The Financial Times may yet go on making hundreds of thousands of dollars through its existing iOS apps, despite having removed them from iTunes Store on Tuesday.

Although it has pulled its native iPad and iPhone apps off the store, anyone who still has them on their devices can continue using them – to read content and pay for it…

These users can take out, renew or upgrade a subscription inside the app, through the FT’s own payment platform and not Apple’s, just as before. If a user renews or upgrades to a £337.48 ($550.65) Premium Subscription, for instance, FT Publishing would go on keeping 100 percent, as it has done since April 2010, and not the 70 percent it otherwise would in Apple’s dreams.

“The change in Apple’s terms are to the Store terms and conditions,” a Financial Times spokesperson tells paidContent. “The app is no longer in the Store, but existing users can continue as before.”

And, it seems, that’s not just FT’s own interpretation. The revised terms issued by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) in June – which compel content subscription transactions to go only through iTunes Store, where they give up 30 percent to Apple – are, indeed, “App Store Review Guidelines”. It seems they therefore only apply when Apple judges the presence of apps actually in or submitted to its store.

The publisher won’t say how many of its subscribers use its native iOS app but, since a tenth of the 100,000-odd subscribers the FT has signed since the app was launched in spring 2010 have come from iPad itself, I would estimate up to 10,000. (It could be even more, since a total 15 percent of subscriptions came from both tablet and mobile).

If each of them chose to renew or upgrade to a Premium Subscription (rather than the lower-tier Standard Subscription), the FT would make 100 percent of £3.3 ($5.39) million and deny Apple commission worth £1 ($1.63) million.

In reality, that is not going to happen. Upon loading the iOS app, users are invited to either stick with it or to flip to its replacement HTML web “app”, through which the paper naturally keeps 100 percent of transactions – and most are doing the latter, according to the publisher…

“A majority of our subscribers on mobile devices have become web app users and this number is growing quickly,” the spokesperson tells paidContent.

“The number of web app users has overtaken users on our native Apple iOS apps combined, and it’s now delivering the largest share of subscriptions from our mobile channels.”

That seems awfully quick. I wonder whether web app use is booming merely because the FT launched the web app as free for a summertime promotion. But the paper points out that only lasted two weeks and was back in June…

So its claim that most mobile subscribers have already switched appears straightforward, and impressive. As sad as their exit from iTunes Store may be, FT’s marketers can take heart that they have begun to migrate subscribers within what has become an important device channel.

The iOS app’s ongoing availability, the fact it can still fully process revenue and its inducement that readers switch over all mean the best has been made an unfortunate situation.

Anyway, it’s also likely many FT subscribers renew through corporate channels rather than right on their device.

The spokesperson adds: “The launch of the web app has significantly boosted mobile traffic. In excess of 20 percent of total page views are coming from mobile. We believe this increased mobile traffic to be incremental as we’re also seeing year-on-year growth in desktop page-views.”