By Jennifer Saba
REUTERS - More than 700,000 people use the Financial Times' Web-based mobile application to access news and other content, making it more popular than the version sold in Apple's App Store.
The business newspaper, which is part of British publishing group Pearson Plc, made a gamble in June when it prepared to ditch the App Store with the introduction of its Web-based app.
The FT was one of the first major publishers to reduce its dependence on Apple Inc and go out with an HTML5-based mobile application that can be read by any browser, thus bypassing the App Store.
FT.com Managing Director Rob Grimshaw told Reuters that the new Web-based app was drawing more traffic than the version that was sold through the App Store.
"People who are using the app are spending much more time with the content," he said. "They are consuming about three times as many pages through the app as they are through the desktop in an average visit."
The FT's Web-based mobile app accounts for 15 percent of FT.com subscriptions and 20 percent of total FT.com page views from mobile users, Grimshaw said.
Apple was not immediately available for comment.
Generally, publishers offer custom-made apps for Apple's iPad or other tablet devices such as those run on Google Inc's Android system.
Newspaper and magazine publishers in the United States in and Europe have been at at odds with Apple over apps, citing its strict policies.
For instance, Apple takes a 30 percent cut of subscription revenue from users who sign up for apps in the store.
More problematic is that Apple wants to control subscriber data -- valuable demographic information used by magazines and newspapers to sell advertising -- from people who sign up for the app in the store.
The FT is one of a handful of newspapers that has been successfully charging for digital content through a variety of subscription packages.
For a while, Apple did not have a subscription system in place so the FT was allowed to sell its app in the company's store. Under that arrangement, the FT kept all the revenue and retained full control of subscriber data.
This past summer, Apple made it clear that all subscriptions to apps it hosts must go through its own store after it launched its own subscription service for magazines, newspapers, videos and music.
Many publishers have balked at Apple's terms.
The FT pulled its main iPad and iPhone app from Apple store after both parties failed to reach an agreement after months of negotiations.
"App stores are actually quite strange environments," Grimshaw said. "They are cut off from most of the Web ecosystem."
A simple message on the top of the FT's Web site has been an effective marketing tool, he added.
"The world outside the App Store is not cold and desperate. Discovery is no problem at all."
(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)