MacLeod, a former Managing Editor of the Financial Times, now oversees the operational aspects of moving the Financial Times to a true digital first environment, and discussed some of the digital challenges today, particularly on mobile.
“I have been at the FT for 11 years,” she told participants at WAN-IFRA’s Digital Media Europe event in London. “The FT is 126 years old. I’ve seen more change in the last 10 years than we did in the first 116. It’s been fast, fascinating, challenging and exciting.”
The new reality
MacLeod said the FT now has 200,000 more digital subscriptions than print, and mobile is playing a big part of that trend.
“The rise of mobile traffic and content makes us wonder about what will happen with desktop,” she said. “In many parts of the world, they will never, never experience the desktop, instead they are or will access their content via mobile.”
She said mobile creates numerous challenges, such as trying to deliver the same content to all the different devices.
“You can thank tablets and mobiles for the changing consumption patterns which have created a big challenge of resourcing and content distribution. We had to rethink our content planning, scheduling and distribution of our content.”
Getting around the App Store
FT chose to go to an HTML5 app and came out of the Apple Store to get around Apple’s new conditions and to own direct consumer relations, both B2B and B2C, she said. It has resulted in 4 million users on the HTML5 app, much more than we had on the previous native app.
FT’s technology strategy is now centred on a “Universal Publishing” concept. This means, she said:
- Making: Creating the right tools, making the right things and making the process efficient
- Managing: Organised assets, customer data and good metadata
- Exposing: Stop binding to platforms, use APIs for services, make content easy to access and use. MacLeod shared some of the different solutions and developments in the works, including FT teaming up with Samsung for a Smart TV app, with Mercedes for a text-to-voice car app, an FT Weekend app, a redesigned Android app, and work on a new FT.com responsive design platform.
Advertising on mobile: the challenges
Some of the challenges, she said, the FT and others face with mobile advertising include:
- Price: too cheap, too much inventory
- Heritage: unfamiliarity of the mobile channel, making it difficult to sell
- Creative issues: “I was at a conference last week and found out that “fat fingers (clicks)” create about 50 percent of mobile ad clicks.”
- Measurability: difficult to measure
- Experience: quite simply, users don’t like interrupted experience.
- Technical difficulties: hard to manage all the different platforms. “At one point, we were asking an advertiser who wanted to go across all of our platforms and we were asking for 18 different creatives… daunting.”
Banking on mobile advertising: some relief
She said there is good news as well, including:
- Ensure parity on analysis tools. HTML5 makes this possible… and this is helpful for advertisers. Building tablet and print: tablet is worth paying for, and advertisers like the print-like formats (easier sell than smartphones).
- Helping advertisers with their creatives: “We have actually set up a small studio to help them set up their creatives to break down some barriers for entry, and we can build that into the price.”
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