Go button keyboard
Credit: Thinkstock

The Financial Times has seen more change in the last 10 years than in the previous 115 years since it was established, says Lisa MacLeod, head of operations at the outlet.

Speaking at the second day of the Digital Media Europe conference in London today, MacLeod told delegates that, as a result, "desktop is becoming the new print" at the Financial Times.

"Our newsrooms are generally gathered around a desktop product but over 60 per cent of subscribers are coming to us by mobile," she said. Digital audience consumption habits across the week from Monday to Sunday

Across the world, there are many people who "won't even know what a desktop [computer] looks like", she said, as some countries lack the infrastructure to make desktop consumption viable. Instead, many users are going straight to mobile devices to get their news.

As such, mobile is becoming an increasingly important focus for the Financial Times in providing what the audience wants, by "listening to readers, speaking to readers and understanding what they are after".

The decision to bypass Apple's newsstand with a HTML5 web app in 2011 has allowed the Financial Tims to respond better to reader demands, said MacLeod, with "more than 4 million users" of the new app, "way more than we would have had on Apple".

'Static' vs 'live'

One of the main attractions for readers, she said, was the choice between a "static" and "live" version of the app.

Websites are "more functional, " MacLeod said. "You go there, find something and leave.

"However, what readers say they hate about the web is the infinite amount of content. You get the feeling with print that you can finish things but you don't get that with the web."

As a result, users can choose between an app that mirrors the daily newspaper – "for people more comfortable with the web experience" – or an app that keeps updating with content from the web.

Text vs visual

Another consideration for the Financial Times digital team is whether text is always the best way to tell a story on mobile, where screen sizes vary.

"The traditional thought process is 'text first and everything else later'," said MacLeod. "But the mobile experience asks for something different.

"Mobile asks for visuals first, text later. If you can catch everything in a visual way then you don't need text."

Some stories have been better told as a 'charticle', she said, in which complex financial information may be displayed as a series of charts so the reader can see the information quickly, rather than trying to explain the topic with text.

'The problem with being everywhere'

Despite the increased proliferation of mobile devices around the world, this should not be the absolute focus of publishers, said MacLeod.

"It would be a mistake for any company to say 'we are 100 per cent mobile-first' as the game is bigger than that," she said.

Because the Financial Times is already active on a number of social platforms and moving onto devices beyond mobile, such as gaming devices, the organisation is to pursue a strategy of 'universal publishing'.

ft universal publishing dme14

And looking ahead, MacLeod shared some ideas of where the Financial Times is looking for its future digital product.

ft looking froward dme14

Free daily newsletter

If you like our news and feature articles, you can sign up to receive our free daily (Mon-Fri) email newsletter (mobile friendly).