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The Financial Times should be "open-minded" to what can be learned from online-only business news sites and other new digital entrants to the media market, the news outlet's chief executive said today.

Speaking at the Digital Media Strategies conference, taking place today and tomorrow, John Ridding was asked whether he was worried at all by the growth of outlets such as Business Insider and Quartz.

But in response, he said he was "genuinely and honestly quite excited" when it came to what he identified as an "upsurge of innovation in news".

"I think that overall, the pace in change of new ideas is quite exciting", he said, adding that while the FT is "confident in our strategy, [we are] also aware we can learn a lot from new players out there."

He also referenced sites such as The Verge and BuzzFeed as having "really exciting ideas" which legacy media outlets like the FT "should be fairly open-minded" about.

Referring to the Verge in particular, he praised its "degree of specialisation" and "quality insight into the sector", adding that this reflects the FT's own aims, also adding that "readers like lists and rankings, and we can learn from that".

But as well as reflecting on lessons to take from these other outlets, he stressed that the FT is "not going to be distracted from core mission", to deliver "premium news and analysis".

One issue it does raise, he later added, is talent, and the need to both find and keep it.

But, he added, the team behind FT is "extremely talented", and added that he is passionate about ensuring they "have the freedom to build their departments".

Engagement with FastFT

In May last year the FT launched FastFT, aiming to offer digital readers the latest updates on "market-moving news".

Ridding said the aim of the platform is to deliver "a fairly succinct assessment of the news" through a "dynamic feed", while maintaining the FT's "identity".

And by looking at the analytics, the outlet has learnt that a "lot of people are using that more and more as homepage".

And engagement is significant, with readers said to be spending 8-10 minutes on average with FastFT "per session".

Ridding stressed the importance of using data to improve the outlet's awareness of how audiences are interacting with their output.

"I never thought I'd be excited about data," he said, but added that for the FT, which requires online users to register, and then subscribe beyond a certain article limit, there is "all this data coming through from the subscriptions channel" they can use.

"We focused more and more on the sort of data behind readership patterns," he said, adding that a key lesson was "that the homepage is no longer the be-all and end-all".

Instead, new products such as FastFT can become an alternative homepage for those readers wanting the most recent news.

FastFt launched as part of an ongoing shift towards a "digital-first news operation", according to a memo from editor Lionel Barber, published in October

Financial figures for The Financial Times Group published last week appear to support the shift and represent the passing of "a series of major milestones last year", said Ridding, with 55 per cent of revenues coming from "digital and services" according to the release.

2013 was the "first year where money we made from content overtook advertising", said Ridding, as content revenues accounted for 63 per cent of revenues, compared to 37 percent from advertising.

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