Earnings: FT Profit Up, Subs Flat, Confident On Ad Outlook

This story was written by Robert Andrews.
FT Group profit rose 21 percent to 84 million ($167 million) on 11 percent better revenue of 374 million ($743 million) in the first half of the year, supposedly on digital and subscription growth. The group also comprises the Interactive Data unit, but the news publishing wing grew more - sales up 13 percent to 188 million ($373 million), profit up 26 percent to 30 million ($59 million).

Advertising revenue was up only two percent and that remains "remain difficult to predict". But FT's strategy is clear - it's increased its digital revenue composition from 28 percent of the whole in 2000 to 63 percent in 2007, and slimmed its reliance on advertising from 30 percent to 52 percent of sales in the same period. Despite "tough macroeconomic conditions", FT forecasts profits even if ad sales are flat.

But, despite FT.com unveiling a new access model in November (giving five articles free per month, and a further 30 for those who register), we're still seeing a plateau in paying subscribers. Results said subscriber levels were only "maintained" at "around 100,000" - the same figure as last month, when MD Rob Grimshaw told me sub levels were "largely static". Non-paying registrations, of course, have tripled since the switch, from almost 150,000 to 500,000 at present - so FT.com isn't converting many of these to paying subs but is trying to monetise them through other means, like direct marketing and on-site advertising.

Parent company Pearson's (NYSE: PSO) group earnings showed pre-tax profit up 57 percent to 95 million ($188 million) on 16 percent better sales of 1.96 billion ($3.89 billion).

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By Robert Andrews
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