MEDIA: FT.com refutes claims of charges to website users

FT.com chiefs have rejected claims they are about to levy charges

on its 1.7 million monthly website visitors.



The rebuttal follows recent press reports claiming The Financial Times

newspaper group - owned by Pearson Publishing - was planning to erase

its 'free' status.



'The claims are untrue and misleading,' said FT.com head of

communications Paul Nero. 'Although we are planning to introduce premier

paid-for services, the core content will always remain free.



'The press reports have misrepresented our plans for the site,' he

added.



Most of the site's revenue comes from internet advertising, but analysts

claim this is no longer a viable source of income.



However, Pearson has brought forward the site's break-even date by a

year.



'We now expect to become profitable by 2002, and any changes will only

be to improve the choice for readers,' added Nero who denied there would

be 'asset stripping' of the core web content to be turned into the

planned paid-for services.



FT.com rival WSJ.com is a subscription-based website. But although

readership has risen by 52 per cent to 500,000 during the past 12

months, the website is not profitable.This is blamed on the amount of

free information available on the web.



'We are pleased our competitors are beginning to recognise that WSJ has

pioneered the most successful business model for publishing valuable

content on the web,' said WSJ.com PR manager Melanie Spencer.



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