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Rob Grimshaw

Managing Director | 23 Dec 2011

With rapid economic growth and an increasing number of talented and influential business leaders, India has long been a strategic market for Financial Times. The launch of the Indian mobile applications are in line with FT’s global digital strategy and a key step for FT to further target the country’s top business community. Intersecting subscription offers with quality market content is what we give our rich reader base.

As the FT Board representative for FT.com, Rob Grimshaw is responsible for the website’s commercial performance and overall strategy. Since Grimshaw took over as Managing Director of FT.com in 2008, he has overseen convergence of the Financial Times’ digital elements into a highly profitable business. At the last count, FT.com had 3.4 million registered users and 224,000 digital subscribers which, when combined with the Financial Times’ print readership, gives the publisher a base of nearly 606,000 paying users. In conversation with exchange4media’s Priyanka Nair, Grimshaw speaks about FT.com’s journey in India, leveraging the digital media and more...

Q. Given the growing use of digital media, what are your views on convergence of media, especially in India?

Digital space is very exciting, yet a challenging platform for publishers across the world. Digitalisation in publishing industry is not just about replication of print editions in the digital space, it is much more complex in nature. What comes as a challenge is leveraging various digital platforms to reach out to the wider reader base. Successful publications should be available not just on desktops, but on mobiles and tablets as well.

Q. FT.com has the highest number of registered users from India among the Asian markets. How have you been able to attract the Indian readers?

We observed that FT as a brand was very familiar in India, but readers were not familiar about our content. Education of our content was then of high priority. That’s when we built an interesting subscription model, which doubled our subscriptions. We have the highest number of registered users from India among the Asian markets, with this number increasing consistently over the past year or two. Asian markets are always very open to new technology and I think that’s the very reason we opted for India as our prime Asian market for the launch of our mobile apps. The idea of launching of the mobile apps was drawn looking at this tremendous growth in the subscription base in India. The India mobile apps provide users with the latest authoritative Indian and international business news, with a customised homepage. The customisation includes top stories from India, prominence of other popular content, including the Beyondbrics blog and business education reports. In addition, the iPad application will feature highlights from the prestigious A-list column, the Alphaville blog, and the recently launched Luxury 360, FT’s new online hub for creative and commercial coverage of the luxury goods industry. The two new mobile apps for iPhone and iPad will also give users easy and fast access to FT’s high quality news. It will be a free access to all stories on the front page exclusively in India. We will be offering an attractive subscription offer for readers in India for $49.40 per year through the apps. Users can simply add the website to the homescreen for offline access without downloading it.

Q. What are your wining strategies to engage readers – both corporates and consumers?

With rapid economic growth and an increasing number of talented and influential business leaders, India has long been a strategic market for Financial Times. The launch of the Indian mobile applications are in line with FT’s global digital strategy and a key step for FT to further target the country’s top business community. Intersecting subscription offers with quality market content is what we give our rich reader base.

Q. Could you highlight the profile of your Indian advertisers?

We have two sets of advertisers – Indian companies present globally, who want to reach out to our global audience, are one set of advertisers that we have, and the other set of advertisers are the western companies based in India who use Indian IP traffic to reach out to elite Indian audience. In fact, 75 per cent of our campaigns in India are domestic based, which is a big attraction, but this is not referred to in terms of revenue.

Q. What are the challenges to growth of the digital advertising market in India?

I see a great potential in digital advertising in the next 12 months. Though digital advertising all over the world is challenging, with the evolution of mobile apps and various other emerging mobile technology, brands will soon get a better platform to express their brand messages.

Q. 3G has just been introduced in India this year. How do you think it will help leverage the digital medium?

From the download point of view and from the experience point of view, 3G has brought with it an extremely attractive user base in India. It’s our observation from other markets too that 3G brings in rich improvement in usage and this is exactly why we felt it’s the right time to offer a lovely experience reading experience to our Indian readers on their mobile. Advertisers now have a richer space for their expressing their brand message visually.

Q. What are your views on the buzz on social as part of the digital marketing strategy?

Social media provides an interactive platform for readers to debate and discuss over various daily content. Live feeds of these comments on the site generate extensive readers engagement; linking these social media platforms to the news site thereby makes it very important from an engagement point of view.

Q. Coming specifically to FT.com, what is the growth strategy for the portal?

We are looking at keeping the growth momentum and maintain the independence of our distinctive editorial point of view to attract prospective reader base.

Q. Since you took over the reins as Managing Director of FT.com, what are the things that have been ticked off on your to-do list?

Redesigning of the website, building an interesting business model for increasing our digital subscription base, leveraging multiple platforms to educate about our content and creating an active newsroom culture that thinks digitally first – are the things that I think I have been able to develop and structure over time.

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