After trousering £3m from the £12m sale of financial commentary site Breakingviews to the FT, Hugo Dixon has some words of advice on how to make websites pay.
Don’t cut the editorial budget so much that what you have left isn’t worth charging for.
He tells The Guardian: “The temptation if you’ve got to cut costs by 5 per cent is just to salami slice and everyone works a bit harder and quality just deteriorates a little bit more. What you end up with when you finally decide to put it behind a paywall is something that’s not good enough to persuade people to pay for.
“Media groups have got to focus much more clearly on what is their unique selling point – keep the investment there, possibly increase the investment there, and everything else, which may be necessary as part of a package, because a newspaper is a package, they don’t have to produce themselves, they can buy that in.”
Looking back to the launch of Breakingviews in 2000, he says: “The fact that the FT took its eye off its core constituency, in the early part of the decade, was a huge boon for us. We were just focusing on that. We had a single-minded focus.
“In many ways, they’ve clearly tried to copy us…Almost everything we do, they try to copy us. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”