The FT's pricing department are cunning devils

I finally got fed up of not being able to read FT articles after my debit card expired, so I went in to update the details. I'm not a huge fan of paying for content online - actually I'm not a huge fan of paying for anything, as both a Scot and an economist - and if I have to, I would prefer to pay per article. But the FT is both high quality, and its content is sufficiently important to this blog, that it's worth the subscription.

My recollection of the price was around £6.99 a month [I have now checked this - it was £6.25, dropping to £6.12 with the VAT cut last December], so I was a little surprised to see this:

They've upgraded me to a premium subscription by default, I thought - sneaky. I don't think I need a premium account - from memory it gives access to stock data or something else that I don't use. Easy, I thought - I'll go and change it back to a regular sub again.

So click on 'Change or upgrade access level' and this is what you see:

I'm sure £4.99 per week isn't the same as £12.98 per month - but maybe there's a difference between monthly and weekly prices (the clever "per week" bit distracted me, so I hadn't quite registered that this is the annual price, and therefore likely to be less than the monthly version. These people are good).

I occasionally read a Lex item but it isn't worth paying £1.70 a week for it - if anything it's a distraction from more interesting things, and I have enough distractions already what with Facebook, twitter and working for a living.

So I select Monthly instead, and this is what I get:


This more-than-fourfold price jump in less than a year had exactly the intended effect: making me think the £12.98 deal I'm currently on is a pretty good one. I checked some old emails and it turns out I was paying that since March 2009 - at least until the card expired.

So I have reluctantly renewed at £12.98, with a grudging admiration for the FT's pricing department. I guess they are in an internal contest with the Economist inside Pearson plc. Maybe Dan Ariely will have to update the first chapter in the next edition of Predictably Irrational.

But am I on a grandfathered deal because I'm an existing subscriber? Is it a mistake on their part because I hadn't yet updated my card when this year's price rise came in? Or is it behavioural pricing - designed to encourage me to renew when I otherwise might be inclined not to?

If I get an email after this posting explaining that my charges are going up to £25.99, I'll be sure to let you know.

Update: Turns out the FT is considering a pay-per-article model. Although according to the Independent, the medium of payment is going to be somewhat unconventional:
Senior sources at the FT have confirmed that the group is in discussions with a number of payment processor companies to establish a simple "one-lick" procedure that would enable consumers to pay a small fee for single articles that would otherwise be available only to subscribers.
I think I need to know more about the mechanism before I know if I prefer the 26 quid...

Update 2: I have now received a nice email about this from the FT - details here.


Tom Hickey said…
Welcome to the corporate world. Apparently the Brits are learning from the Americans. Or maybe vice versa. Whatever, the anecdotal evidence suggests that this is increasing. Started as the old bait and switch, then went to up-selling, and now it's drive the customer crazy with confusing choices until he or she gives up and pushes a button. Oh, and don't get me started on corporate phones.

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