Pearson has just published its end-of-year results, and in a tough economic climate they're impressively strong. The company, which counts the FT Group, Penguin, Pearson Education and a 50% stake in the Economist Group among its many holdings, has reported a 12% increase in its adjusted operating profit, with a 27% growth in profits for the FT Group.
Part of this success is due to the FT Group reducing its dependence on volatile advertising markets, and relying more heavily on digital, subscription and content revenues.
Overall, the FT Group is now making more money from its content, and less from advertising. In 2007, the group drew 41% of its total revenues from content, 59% from ads. Now the balance is 58% from content, 42% from ads.
What's more, according to the report, money from digital and services now account for 47% of the FT Group's revenues, compared to just 25% in 2007.
Pearson reports "strong and accelerating growth" in the FT's digital readership. Online FT subscriptions (which are priced highly, at £5.19 per week for annual subscribers, or £6.69 per week for monthly ones) rose by 29% to 267,000, to make up around 44% of the paper's total paid circulation. The number of registered FT.com users likewise rose by 33%, to over 4 million.
Pearson boasts that the FT's combined paid print and digital circulation totaled 600,000 last year, "the highest circulation in the history of the FT". What's more, the FT has a record estimated average daily audience of 2.2 million people worldwide.
Most impressively perhaps for the future of the publication, by the end of last year, the FT's digital subscribers outstripped the paper's print circulation in the US.
As Roy Greenslade noted earlier this month, it's also doing well across different platforms. Pearson states that 19% of traffic to the FT's website is now generated by mobile.
The Economist, which has reported record profits over the past four years, is also doing well digitally: its total online visits were up 39% from 2010, to 165 million last year.
Strong digital growth at the FT Group compensates for the fact that advertising was still a problem area. The report acknowledged that, "advertising was generally weak and volatile with poor visibility", noting that "growth in online advertising and the luxury category was offset by weakness in corporate advertising".
And the outlook isn't all rosy: the report predicts that the FT group's profits will be lower this year than in 2011 as a result of the sale of the company's 50% stake in FTSE International.
But while the company also anticipates more costs as a result of the switch from print to digital, it's doing everything it can to set itself up for a successful digital future.
Other Pearson divisions are also taking part in the digital revolution: eBooks made up 12% of Penguin's worldwide revenues last year, up from 6% the year before. "We expect this percentage to increase significantly again in 2012", says Pearson.
Overall, digital revenues at Pearson have risen by 18% to 2 billion - 33% of the company's sales.