Tea with the FT

Thursday 23 July 2009

Come to Tea at the FT and tell us what you think...

This was the notice we put up on a number of FT blogs inviting readers to come in and tell us what they liked and disliked about FT.com. This was the second time we'd held a tea and hopefully they'll be many more to come. It's a brilliant and cost effective way to find out at first hand what our users think, how they use the site and how we could improve. It was a really fascinating afternoon with a great turn out.

It's always easy to hear what's good about what we do but the bad and the ugly as well... that can be a bit harder to swallow. But in for a penny, in for a pound, we wanted to hear it all. A diverse range of people turned up including private investors, charity organisors as well as social media enthusiasts and they were all incredibly interesting and knowledgable.

In between my cup of English Breakfast and cream scone with lashings of strawberry jam (if only all my meetings were this well catered) I made sure I took down lots of notes. There was one new idea after another, some of which had never even crossed our minds, it was brilliant.

A common theme was a lack of differentiation between blog posts and comment pieces on FT.com but the group were quite adament that blog posts should be about editorial comment and opinion rather than simply news pieces. FT Alphaville and Markets Live got a big thumbs up by everyone in the room. One guest even made a point of saying
"Markets Live is unparallel to anything else" - wow!

One interesting suggestion was based on the desire to follow journalists, a need for a one stop show to see what articles they've written recently. We don't make it particular easy to do this on our site at the moment so we'll be looking into this.

Another point focussed on subscribing to FT.com. It's becoming more and more important for online publishers to find subscription models that work particularly with advertising revenues not being as strong as in previous years. One guest suggested that we should be open as to why we need people to subscribe; inform the reader that subsciptions are needed to be a sustainable business. A subscription has got to provide value though surely.

I'd like to say a big thanks to everyone who came along. I've got a feeling the suggestions from the day will keep me busy for some time. We will be holding these sessions in the future too so if you fancy coming along, do get in touch.

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The blog of an FT Product Manager

Monday 20 July 2009

Hey, I hear you're interested in working for the FT. Well, I hope so because the lovely folk in HR have asked me to share some insight into what it's like at the pink paper. Alternatively you may just be an intrigued sort wondering what the devil we get up to in SE1, so welcome all the same!

Being on the digital side of FT and working on FT.com I thought I'd focus this on new things we're launching and how we go about designing and creating them. We like to think of ourselves as a creative bunch so we've always got something on the go that we're excited about and even if we haven't, we'll be trying to come up with the next bright idea - in fact all ideas are welcome, feel free to contribute!

So first off is the shiny new FT iPhone application we launched just last week and would you believe pop-pickers, went straight in at Number 2 in the download charts for UK News apps. The FT iphone promo (well a mashed-up version
by an intrigued user complete with a funkier sound track) gives you an idea of how it looks.

The design needed to reflect the uncluttered pink FT brand which is being rolled out across FT.com whilst working with the iPhone features. Here's a note from my colleague who led the development:
"It was really interesting creating the application because the user interface is so different from the web. We had to design a completely different experience to allow for the touch screen and iPhone gestures and we're really pleased with the result"
We announced the launch of the application via Twitter and it was the first time we'd made an announcement in this way. The Twitter community were great giving us lots of feedback which we'll feed into further enhancements and product development, so thanks to everyone who commented.

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