FT Web App Bypasses App Store: How Ya Like Dem Apples?

By David Cohen Comment

Financial Times called an end-around play to dodge the Apple App Store, releasing a Web app that brings its content to several smartphones and tablets, including the iPad, with one login and one subscription payment for users.

Content will be free this week for the first week of the app’s launch, and FT said it was built using HTML5 technology, and it supports automatic, regular downloads so users can have access to its fare at any time, via any supported device.

No download is necessary for the Web app, and it also offers offline reading and specific enhancements for smartphones and tablets. FT said the app was initially optimized with Apple’s iPhone and iPad in mind, but it will be tweaked to handle Android devices such as the Samsung Galaxy and Motorola Xoom, as well as other devices, including the BlackBerry PlayBook.

FT online managing director Rob Grimshaw spoke with paidContent about the new app and its bypassing of the App store, saying:

We’ve benefited from our exposure in the App Store — Apple were very good, they promoted our app quite heavily, and we were very grateful. But app stores are not a panacea. There are something like 250,000 apps on Apple’s App Store, 150,000 on Google’s — these are turning into pretty crowded environments. The search and discovery tools are not that great, and there are limited ways to market your app.

So while we will lose some exposure through not being in the App Store, we will also gain the opportunity to do a whole bunch of things that, previously, we weren’t able to do.

It’s not just Apple versus FT — there is more to it than that. We started to look at HTML at the middle of last year, when we realized how complicated it would be to develop applications for all of these different platforms.

This was something we had in mind anyway. It happened that Apple made it commercially important, as well. We’ve accelerated what we were doing, but it isn’t just about Apple.

The worst situation would have been to reach June 30 and find that Apple and the FT can’t agree, and readers are left without access to their content. We felt we had to make sure there was an alternative, no matter what happened with Apple.

We won’t be stepping off the iPad — we might not be on iTunes. More than one-half of our traffic on the iPad comes through the browser, anyway; that doesn’t get talked about much in the media. We won’t be slow to show people the FT in an app form.

FT CEO John Ridding said of the Web app:

This is our best app yet, and it is an important step in our strategy of providing multichannel access to our global journalism quickly and simply. The FT Web App offers our customers flexibility and freedom of choice with access to our global journalism anytime, anywhere, with a single login or subscription. In a world of increasingly digital complexity, we want to keep our service simple, easy to use, and efficient to offer our customers the best possible experience of FT journalism.