The FT – its digital transformation and the future for financial reporting
Event summary by Alex Northcott
Guest Speaker: Robert Shrimsley, Editorial Director, Financial Times
Digital transformation within the FT:
- In the past the FT was structured around desks (World, UK, Companies etc) and each was focussed 100% on filling a number of columns and sorting the layout of the paper. It was about words and photos.
- It has taken a monumental shift in culture and process to become digital first. “_ It is about graphics, videos, charts or ‘charticles’ where an image tells the story._ ”
- “It is a battle for attention. Previously, consumers just buying the paper was the goal.”
- “Today our competitors are not just the WSJ, Times or Bloomberg etc but Candy Crush and Game of Thrones”. It is about the audience journey and the battle for attention.
- The FT has always been an aggregator – just traditionally via a paper. “Now we are a digital aggregator”.
Current trends across the FT:
- Digital first strategy. “Days of holding onto an exclusive / scoop and then delivering this later on in the day… this strategy lasts about 5-10 seconds.”
- Ongoing process on how the FT optimises what they do for online, mobile and print
- FT readership is younger, more international, English speaking and predominantly UK and USA based with a strong relative Asian following. Its subscribers are also heavily male orientated – “something we want to change”.
- Circulation is over 900,000 of which 700,000 is online. “This is where our audience really engages us.” Brexit and Trump have certainly helped boost circulation – trusted sources are important to readers.
- Audience and engagement statistics vitally important. Helps FT decide on what to commission, when to publish stories and how to optimise them. “Yet aware data analytics can narrow one’s focus if rely 100% on this. Therefore a balance between the content that we know generates most traction and the columns that we know some of our readers like.”
- “We are in the business of news and therefore cannot neglect this. However, we have FastFT to deliver the essential facts and then we will ask if further analysis is required for a bigger story.”
- “We have the same number of reporters (bar the dot.com boom) but they have a different skill set as to 10 years ago. We have hired multimedia journalists working across news, graphics and video.”
Challenges to the industry:
- Fake news is a challenge – “It’s very hard to disprove an untruth”.
- “Some readers don’t pay any attention to the source of the news. They believe what they have read. They can consume only what they want to hear.”
- “There are emerging powerhouses like Facebook. They and others are working hard to clarify what their role is… They are not quite publishers but need to have the accountability of publishers as they are responsible for what is created via their platforms”.
Thank you to Robert and those that joined us.
About Alex Northcott
Alex Northcott is the CEO at Roxhill Media. Alex founded Gorkana in 2003 and sold the business to Durrants in 2010, which became the Gorkana Group. In 2015 he set up Roxhill Media, the next generation media database. He has over 18 years’ experience in the PR industry having worked at Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan.
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