Distilling the news: one month into the FT Edit App | RISJ seminar with Malcolm Moore
11:30AM Apr 27, 2022
Hi, and welcome to the Reuters Institute global journalism seminar series. Today we're tracking product development in real time. The Financial Times last month launched FP edit an app that gives readers access to eight articles in depth news content every weekday at 8am. It was one of the first major things products that FDA had launched in about a decade, and it's being led by Malcolm Moore. And we're really glad to have you with us today to talk about this mark, and welcome. Thank you. I just like to kind of give a little bit of background. I'd like to know more about how you came to the project because you were a foreign correspondent in Italy in China, I think and then you ran the UK NEWS operation and then became tech editor. So could you tell us a little bit about how that evolved into into running this app?
Yes. So I guess when you sit in the tickets as chair, people start to assume that you know all things about all tech so maybe that was part of the reason. You know, I'd been I'd been sort of on the front line for a number of years and you know, running a section of the ft. The tech section was also something that that I sort of created, you know, we didn't have it before we had tech coverage, but spinning out sort of a new vertical was a new thing for the FT then so I guess maybe, you know, somebody thought, well, you know, Malcolm's done something new before maybe he'd like to try something else that's new. And actually for me, you know, new projects are a lot of fun and thinking about how to set them up. So it was a great opportunity.
And apps are kind of a tough place to start. And I'm curious why, why the FT went for an app rather than a newsletter or you know, any other product that's frankly, easier to set up and sustain and develop. Yeah,
so I mean, I have to say that I was also part of the skeptical camp, in that, you know, as for my role running the tech coverage, I know what the mobile app market looks like. And I know how hard it is for news organizations to launch successful news apps and particularly for to build that habit where people come back to your app on a regular basis, I think is just that's still a thing, but I think is a very difficult challenge. Some people have managed to, of course, you know, 90% of the apps market is games, and of the 10% that isn't games only 2% of that 10% is news and in that 2% You have people like Twitter and Reddit, so it's a it's, it's it's a it's a tough place to be. The reason why we chose to do an app is actually quite straightforward. We had been doing quite a lot of research for a number of years on the idea of a light subscription. So we know that the FT is very good at selling subscriptions to its core audience. We'd like to call them professional readers. But we've always wanted to think about are there more people out there who would want to taste some FDA journalism right now, you know, we do amazing foreign coverage. We've got great economics coverage, we've got stuff that that you know, a lot of non, I mean, obviously we work with non professional readers, but you know what I mean? You know, the rest of the world would probably enjoy reading, but what is the right way to get it to them and what's the right price point? So we did quite a lot of work to validate that idea. But at the end of it, we we looked at the technology behind our website, and we thought that would be a major piece of work to change the website in order to deliver different versions of the FTS to every every individual reader. So we thought what we would do is to test the idea in an app first and see if the audience was there. And then if the audience is there, then we could think about what other formats might also be appropriate.
Okay. I know it's only been a month so the data is quite hard to come by. But what's your instinct about how it's going so far?
Well, I'm just telling everybody internally that it's too early to tell that seems to be the safe response. You know, we are pretty encouraged by what we've seen. We've had quite a lot of interest. And we haven't started our marketing campaign yet. I think that's going to start in the next week or so. So we've got at the moment about 24,000 people using the app. And that's all organic threaded by word of mouth, which we're quite happy with. I mean, again, I don't know what the context matters against other news apps or the wider market, but it seems to be fine, but amongst that readership, what's really encouraging is we can see a lot of repeat use like we can see that churn is is pretty low, and we can see people coming back to the app every day and we can see the people who are using it are using it for a long period of time and are reading it and and our focus groups and customer research are telling us that people kind of get what we're trying to do, right, we were trying to put out there a sort of very focused and minimal reading experience so that people could take some time out of their day, sit down with a cup of tea and really get to grips with a piece of fantastic journalism. And people are responding to that. So that's very encouraging.
How many of these readers or users do you think are new users or what? How many do you think are existing subscribers?
That is a good question. And I don't know the answer yet. We are obviously so we existing ft. Subscribers get the app for free. But at the moment everybody gets the app for free because we haven't you know, when you download it, you're not lost any details or anything. We're basically giving everybody a month without even asking them to give us their email addresses. So we don't know if that uses a moment. But the month comes to an end very shortly. So we will soon be able to see you know who who's willing to weigh who's willing to pay for this service and be whether those people are ft readers or or the new audience that we have there.
And talk me through the curation process who decides what goes on the app and
well, that's me. And there's my deputy moment that was passed. Between us we've read everything and and then we decide the eight pieces that we want to put in the following morning's edition. It will get more sophisticated than that. You know, again, I'm you know, because this is an entirely new thing. We are just setting up our data structures now so that we can see how people are responding to different themes and to what sort of articles you know, people want. I think, at the moment where we're going with the gut, but hopefully soon we'll be guided by data.
Going a little bit more about going with the gut. What What's your gut instinct, what do you what do you two tend to pick?
So I mean, I think that what we're trying to do is we're trying to provide stories that explain what is happening in the world right now. So this is not an app, which is going to give you breaking news. There is no news in the app. But it is an app where if you want to know what is going to happen next in Ukraine according to our journalists on the ground and around the world. If you want to know, you know why there's an energy crisis going on what the effects of you know, the problem of food supply chain that Ukraine war is causing. If you want to know you know why the Fed is behaving the way it is, then you will come to us for that explanation. So I think what we're tapping in again, this came out of the research that we did, is that there's audience that we're hoping to target people who are already consuming a lot of news, but feel at the end of their day, that they have read a lot of stuff, but it may or be partially reported or politically slanted or they're not quite sure they understand the the kernel of what exactly is happening in a given situation. And we're trying to give them deep objective ft quality reporting on the topics that are in the news. So that's the first thing that articles should be timely and they should be about what is going on. The other side to it is we're looking to provide you know to show the breadth of the FT you know, you have tea obviously the brand is is is known for Business and Economics journalism, but we have fantastic arts coverage. We have, you know, amazing thinkpieces we have some of the best opinion writers around we've got. We've got ft weekend and everything that it's produced there. We've got amazing magazine pieces. And actually so from so we're always looking to see, is there something here that's that's so interesting, I would want to share it with my friends with my family. And that's really the criteria for which you know, we then put it in the app, right? These are the pieces that I would want everybody I know to read.
And again, I know it's very early, but what struck you like what what has been the unexpected hit or what did you think would do quite well?
And so, last week, we had a piece we put in caught the divine tedium of marriage, which was was actually a books review. There was a review about three books about marriage one about how to save your marriage and another one about a book called Forever land, which by an American author, which is a more realistic take at how hopeless men are and and how frustrating marriages. And I think you know, it's it's an obviously struck a chime with our readers because it was far and away the best piece or most read piece on the day.
That's really interesting. It's often striking how much yeah relationships, awareness well being articles. Do well on new products. Think well,
so I had a chat with a former colleague of mine in the FT who's now running Apple news. Before we launched and asked him, you know, what, what I should bear in mind and he said, you know, you have to bear in mind that people want to read personal finance, how things are going to affect them, their money, you know, endless property. People have property stuff and lifestyle stuff, things that directly relate to them and their world. So you know, don't put in too many long ft pieces about global economics, you know, try and try and put in some more lifestyle stuff.
Can Can I stay on that point? It's a really interesting question how you build a brand and what you said at the beginning makes sense that you the ideal aim here would be to get new users and new new readers who would who are the professional readers, as you said, but at the same time, the Financial Times you know, portrays a certain brand and a certain content that does very well commercially and with its with its subscription models, so how do you balance the two because the temptation to get quick wins, whereas, you know, is there a concern that you go, you always end up with two products?
So I mean, I think that's a really interesting question and it's something that we've been thinking about a lot, because we've stuck pretty close to the FT brand with the way the app looks with the logos and everything else. Like we want people to know that this is ft quality journalism. But in our focus group testing, we've had a lot of people coming back and saying, I'm really surprised. I'm really surprised by this content, right. I just wouldn't have expected it to be in the ft. This is not what I think the FT is about. And that's cut both ways. People who've been surprised pleasantly, and people who said well, I came to the app hoping that you were going to explain you know, more business stories to me. That doesn't seem to be enough business in here. So I think that tension is something that we're just going to have to explore as we go because I think that within the building, we're very open minded about where this project leads and what shape it takes. But, but and, you know, we'll just have to see if the data takes us in one direction or another. We'll just adjust accordingly.
That's what I was going to ask you. What would success look like for you? Yeah.
You know, we don't have any internal targets. attached this project. I mean, I think that the way that the board, we've been incredibly supportive, have put it is just that, you know, the FT is now in a position where we've had, particularly last year we had, you know, record results and we had, you know, we've got record levels of subscribers now for the core products. And that has given us the flexibility to be able to say, You know what, let's just have a sandbox experiment over here, and just see where it goes. And so I at the moment, I couldn't really tell you what success looks like. I mean, I think that it would be great if we found that quality journalism, accessible quality journalism, this idea that you know, that people that because of the proliferation of paywalls, the the accessibility of really top quality journalism is getting harder and harder for most people out there. And I think that if we can make some of what we do accessible to a very wide audience, that that would be tremendous. And if they then actually liked it, and you know, willing to pay a modest sum for it, that would be fantastic.
I'm gonna go into the Reuters Institute fellows room at seminary minimum. But just before that, you touched on dislike slightly, what's been the reception in the newsroom to the store, you know, to the app and also to the which tools are selected, you know, do people want their stories on the app has it kind of affected the way people write or frame stories?
So I would say it's too early and I certainly wouldn't claim that we're affecting how people are getting their work as reporters but but but we've had a very positive response from the newsroom, which is interesting to me, because of course, I kind of expect everybody in the building to have read all of the stories every day anyway on the website. But I think it's the reason we've had a positive response is just that element of the curation that applies to them as well as hopefully it's the wider audience, which is just, you know, we did some focus groups where people said, you know, I love the new york times I've subscribed to New York Times my whole life, but sometimes when I open it, there are so many stories on the homepage. I don't know where to start. And, and actually, I think people are looking for a guide. And whether it's this or something else, it's just you know, what we're offering here is not an endless stream. You don't have to spend all day reading it. There's just eight things here. And I think that's kind of something that we hope will fit into people's lives. And that's the sort of response we've been getting that journalists have come to us and said, I'd like to see what you've picked before I then go to the website and read everything else just just to see what you know, your take on what, what, what's important today as
that develops into a culture where it's seen as a win to have a story on the app, you know, and whether people stop then. Yeah, I guess Fingers crossed. Yeah, that's how that works. I'm going to the room because I think this is related to you know, what, you know, especially you kind of global reach Hana, do to ask your question.
Yeah. Hi, thank you for being here. I'm curious in terms of rich for that, that he was talking about, and maybe reaching the kind of people who wouldn't be able to afford an FTE subscription, and the choice of going with an iPhone app before an Android app. I'd be curious to hear why you went that way.
Yeah. So obviously, it costs twice as much to do both. And we only had limited resources, so we had to pick one or the other. And we decided that we wanted to focus on the UK market first. Because you know, that's where we feel that we're the strongest we are a UK newspaper. But then we felt that our our next market would probably be the US. Again, you know, the FT is very keen to convert for us readers or to have more US readers. And we wanted to try and put a product out there which would be competitive, considering the prices that our US rivals are offering and the US is absolutely an iPhone majority market. So that's why we decided to go first.
It's essentially with an eye to the US market because the in the UK, the price point you're offering, but the editor Android would make more sense in many ways.
Well, I think even in the UK, you know, the market is 5050 Android and iPhone. You know, it's only really
half the people. I think, you know, I'm drugged, find phones like cheaper and you know, appeal more to budget conscious consumer. Yeah. Thank you, Simon. Let me hand over to you conveniently.
Thanks. Hi, Malcolm. That sounds like a really interesting, experimental for the same kind of develops. I'm kind of interested in hearing a bit more about the tech stack and particularly what sort of capacity it has for interactive or personalized content and whether that kind of innovation can come from the editorial side as opposed to the sort of technology side.
Yeah, so this is my first experience of working hand in hand with the product teams. And I would say that editorial and product really look at things from almost diametrically opposite perspectives, which has been an interesting experience. And but I am now fully converted to the product way of thinking or not fully converted, but I hope I keep my editorial hat on a little bit but but basically what they said was, what we need to do here is to build the very simplest, quickest and easiest thing we can to get it to market. And it's only after it's in the market that we then start to experiment with new features. And we will experiment those new features depending on what users are asking for. Right all of these things that kind of antithetical to a journalist, of course, because you know, we're used to not releasing anything into the market until it's perfect. And then, you know, we like to actually decide on what the features are ourselves and give those to the market rather than letting the market tell us what it wants. So in terms of but they're, you know, we've had some early feedback, and actually at the top of the list of feedback is personalization, right, that question of, you know, will this app learn what I like? Will this app learn what I like? And gives me more of what I like? To what extent is it curated versus the algorithm, you know, choosing stuff for me? And indeed, that's that's also been a question about early users is who is choosing this article and why should I trust them to choose these articles for me? You know, I think that's that put it the personalization being the number one request means that it's the first thing that we're going to explore going forward, where we get to I don't know, because I'm not actually sure. I think we have to do a lot more work basically on establishing what people mean when they say, can you personalize something for me? You know, do they mean I would like to choose the topics I get, don't get or do they actually mean? I would like to put, you know, an algorithm in control of say 50% of what I see. Yeah, we'll have to find out.
That's really interesting, isn't it? Because it's how much data you know, to get a totally personalized product. You need to be willing to share quite a lot of your data with it. And probably part of what they're coming to you for is the curation service, which would
I mean, that was our initial assumption, our initial assumption was that actually, you know, there's a kind of sort of backlash against the sort of Facebook effect of an algorithm choosing everything and you know, there's a sort of, there's certainly a fear within certain circles of of, you know, being trapped in the filter bubble and and just being fed one type of thing. I mean, I don't personally again, with my tech editor hat on, I'm not afraid of this, like I do think that you know, we can develop nuanced enough algorithms to be able to avoid filter bubbles and other things, but but, but we did think like what we're trying to offer here at the beginning, as a sort of expert curation and and hopefully that will be popular, but will remains to be seen.
It sounds like your early users don't value that as much as you thought they might.
Well, I think it's just a question of, you know, so many people are used to the idea of some sort of personalization right? I mean, but But again, it's Do they really want it to be personalized or do they want it to seem like it's personalized? You know, Netflix is allegedly personalized, but I'm pretty sure that the Netflix feeds of you know, the majority of people are very similar, right? I'm not. Yeah, I think it's an interesting area to explore how much of the public expects an app to learn about them, or do they just, you know, and do they want that, or is it just something they say they want? It
could just be a you're reading about Ukraine yesterday, would you like to know the next story we have?
Yeah, I mean, I've always been slightly nervous about that sort of thing, right? Because Because certainly, you know, if we look at using analytics to predict our commissioning, in editorial, that doesn't work. You can't use past metrics to decide that somebody's going to want more of a certain thing. Otherwise, you know, we'd be writing endless Elon Musk articles, which
I mean, it's just that last point, just your follow up question. I think you're talking about personalization.
Sorry, yes. Thanks. Very Yeah, I was. I was specifically curious, in this instance, about personalization of article content as opposed to the article mix. For example, like writing a story about housing, you might want to know the readers income and personalize kind of the story based on what kind of housing they might be able to afford. That's just an example at the top of my head, but that kind of thing is that is there any scope to that?
That sounds like a great idea. It's not something that I thought about, but I wouldn't have put it down on a piece of paper.
I'll come to preki in a moment and your question on international audiences, but before the sun. Malcolm, could you tell us a little bit about what what's your feedback processes? How are you collecting feedback from users at the moment?
So you can give feedback directly to the app and a couple of ways you can report bugs, which is obviously the most important thing and you can also fill in a short survey. We have an email address where people can email us and people have been emailing us largely about when the Android version is that is is coming and and then, you know, we're doing we're running sort of what we call diary studies. So we'll pick you know, groups of 10 users and then and and get sort of long and detailed interview responses. That's what we're doing so far. Thank you. And of course, we can see some data although our data dashboards is still in the process of being built.
And if you're not asking if you're not collecting much information at the moment of the users, we're not pretty
good. I thank you for this interesting conversation. You mentioned that your current focus is on your UK audience. But I'm wondering if you still have international subscribers and how do you pick content that is relevant to them?
So the answer is happily we do and I actually had a spreadsheet of it this morning. So the UK is by far the largest group of users so far, but number two is India. And number three is the US. And then there's obviously the app is available. globally. So I mean, there are, you know, dozens and dozens and dozens of countries actually where people are using the app. It's being used very widely across Sub Saharan Africa and you know, in the Cook Islands and all over the place. So you know, obviously that's great. And what we're hoping in the future is basically to roll out editions of the app for different geographies. So the version that we have now that's targeted UK will not be the same person that launches in the US we will have will have different curation for the US and that we will then fingers crossed if it is successful, and it continues to be successful then roll out. I mean, I think that we're excited about the idea of, you know, being able to launch a product in in a in large markets like India at a very different price point and to be able to vary the price point between places. And indeed, you know, if I was going to be really ambitious, I would say there are only eight stories in the app every day so they could potentially be translated into other languages and that would open up other markets to us as well.
That's a really interesting point and really interesting way of reaching international audiences when other Yeah, it's a very focused way of doing that. Paul bread next year. Your question is kind of related really on expansion.
Thank you so much. Thank you, Malcolm. This is very interesting. So eight stories a day seems like a very focused and clear offer to readers. But you did also mention that they might be potential to expand that to something else. What other ideas do you think you could go into in terms of attracting more subscribers suddenly down the line is will you break away from the eight sort of stories a day model and you think there's potential to have perhaps have different mediums such as a podcast day or a Sunday scoop day or something along
those lines? So I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, because we're only a few weeks into this project. And I don't know how it's going to affect the long term future of the ft. But I would say certainly, we are actively thinking about what other formats people would like within the app. You know, would they like podcasts? Would they like video? Would they like audio versions of the stories? So and we have some, you know, the FT has fantastic content across audio and video that we'd like to show off. And indeed, currently, we we can't show the best of our sort of interactive visual journalism inside the app. But we're looking at expanding to be able to do that as well. In terms of what other formats do you have T could could branch into in the future you know, it's far too early to say but you know, we have done a lot of thinking around metered access, you know, so you pay for a certain number of articles. We've done a lot of thinking about 15 weekend only bundles about different bundles and so on and so forth. I don't know where that will lead to. I mean, at the moment, it's just sort of thinking you would expect any news organization to be doing
and the put I think there's few questions here about podcasts for good Paula. In the room that possible. Hello, hi. Yeah. Hi. Hello,
my name is Nina. I am from Chile. I like to ask you about your strategy now given specifically in podcast I see you're in the front page of the app is you have a 2.2 million subscribers new subscribers for Spotify. And they see the podcasts of the Financial Times or they have this special section and they have free access. All the text content is under pay. So which is the strategy in podcasting in general, could you tell us more about that?
I'm not sure how much I can tell you because it's not my it's not my section. But I you know, I think that I think that one way we think about it is, you know, we have let's say 1.2 million subscribers to the core ft products, right people who are paying, you know, a premium amount of money to be able to access up premium journalism. I think we then have the FDA. The FDA actually has a much much wider audience, right. We know they're 26 million people who are signed up to our social media feeds. So we know there are 26 million people who are aware of the FT you know, our brand and might potentially be interested in some of our journalism. And I think that, you know, we've been really encouraged by how popular our podcasts have been. You know, some of our podcasts have you know, are in the top 10 charts for Spotify on a regular basis. And I think that's speaks to the the amount of resource and quality we've put into it and the focus that we put into them, and they're a fantastic way of introducing people to our brand and to some of our journalism and hopefully that they will then want to you can see more of it. But I couldn't tell you where we go from here. I'm afraid that's not my
department. Sorry. That's really interesting. We go back to the app and the numbers kind of what are the what are the daily use the numbers you kind of touched on the you know, people?
Yeah, so they're there. I mean, I don't know how important those days user numbers are, because I'm sure lots of apps are much bigger than ours. But we have, you know, it's been three weeks we've got 24,000 people, the numbers are rising steadily and entirely organically. But from next week, there'll be a marketing campaign, and we hope that will acquire many, many more users as a result, fingers crossed, we'll see.
And what's the retention rate at the moment? Oh,
I think after one week, we still have 14% or maybe more than 40%. Okay, which is, which is pretty good. Yeah. I mean, I think that the average churn rate for an app is 5%. A day. So yeah, we're, we're pretty pleased with our retention.
I mean, again, going back to the kind of product launch because you you know, it's a very, it's a really lovely way to launch from a kind of very successful editorial news room that's done very well commercially and being told, go ahead and play essentially, you know, we don't, you know, you've got space to breathe and space to through to grow. You know, just face to experiment. Tp do want to ask you a question on that. Welcome, thanks for being here.
I'm interested about testing the app before it was launched. What was the audience? How did you test it?
So we about a month before the public launch, we released it to friends and family. And that was the sort of main period for ironing out bugs and getting feedback and making last minute refinements. So we had about 1000 friends and family users play around with it for a month and tell us very frankly, what they liked and didn't like, before that we were running, you know, these groups that we've run all the way along, so we would just gather together, you know, groups of sort of 10 People ask them to use it. For a week and then give us feedback.
And these focus groups, kind of what were you what kind of groups were you looking for?
Well, I wasn't responsible for putting them together. But I think our target audience the hypothesis we had, was that the target audience we're, as I said earlier, people who are already very interested in news and people who have probably subscribed to another newspaper people and the audience skewed both slightly younger and slightly older than our existing FTE audience. So, in our initial testing, we basically found that, you know, there was people in their 20s and 30s, who were very engaged in the news and you know, felt it was a sort of added a sense of sort of civic duty to make sure they understood politics understood what was going on and to, you know, contribute in society, that group and then groups of people who were retired or on the verge of retirement. So, you know, you know, obviously, our professional readers if you know, they read the FT because they need the information in there to do their jobs, which is, which is why they're willing to pay the subscription price. This group had sort of moved beyond that stage in their lives so that they no longer needed to know about you know, breaking corporate finance deals or markets news, but they remain very interested in news and wanted, you know, sort of definitive reporting on the key subjects of the day. So those are the sorts of demographics that we were looking at, and I suppose we can post people out of those sorts of audiences.
It's really that's really interesting. So editorially, the two things are looking at kind of climate change coverage where you know, the younger generations want far more or far more interested in it and also want the reporting to be more definitive and more forceful in many ways than the older generation. And then if you will, of how you curate news so people identify with it as opposed to seeing it as something outside of themselves and impartial and purely objective. And it's really interesting to see how that it'd be really interesting to see how that curation develops to try and find it as much yeah
well, I mean, we may not be correct, but the market I mean, it would be interesting to see who the actual readers are and what the demographics are, although, again, you know, we're trying to collect as little data as well actually, that's the wrong way to put it. We're not collecting very much data at the beginning.
Thank you, Robin. Do you want to follow up from that?
Hi, yeah, um, can you explain the price point a little bit more? Because it feels like it's kind of cheap to the point where it's not sustainable. And I'm wondering whether it's, I mean, you've talked a little bit about it, but is it like an exercise in kind of bringing in people in the hype of converting them into like full subscribers? Or is it you know, trying to build just an enormous scale of people to make it kind of make a bit more financial sense. And is there a danger that you you might take full paying subscribers and kind of undercut yourself,
basically. So it's a great question. We've thought about it a lot. As you can imagine. We set the price point where we did because if you think about this as again, this app is trying to answer the question of whether there is a quite a different audience for the ft. We were very comfortable with our existing audience. We know them really well and we know how to serve them. Is there another audience out there who would like ft quality journalism? That was the question we set out to answer? And in order to answer that question, I think we wanted to make the funnel as wide as we possibly could at the beginning. So we didn't want to put up barriers. We obviously want people to value the app, but we didn't want to put a barrier that would stop somebody who might be interested lefty journalism from trying it and seeing if they liked it. So that's why we've set it where it is. Sorry, all the lights in my room have gone off because I've been sitting still for too long. In terms of cannibalization, we think that if you are an existing ft reader and again you need the information, the FTE to be able to do your job and do it effectively, then this app is not going to be enough for you. Right, because essentially, there's no news in the app, right if you need to know exactly what the big move in the market is today or what the big corporate finance deal is or or you know what the other sort of exclusive news that we have, you're not going to find that in the app. And so so we don't think that people will trade down. And again, the framing of this app and the content in it. Is is really designed for that wider audience rather than say for the sort of more specialized current ft audience, if that makes sense. But we are going to be keeping a very close eye to see whether cannibalization does occur.
I think that would be really interesting to see in the US because in the UK, there is quite an overlap because you're on you're on iPhones only. So I think, you know, the other market is possibly my strong hunch is they're on Android and so you're not reaching them. Whereas in the US like you said the iPhone penetration is much higher so it'd be really interesting to see there whether you reach the Absolutely, thank you. I mean, the DFT spent a lot of money investing in kind of text to speech. I think it was the AMI project, if that's something you were looking at incorporating.
So experimental AMI is already in the existing FTL. But but it's quite hard to find it and turn it on, but it is there. We've actually been looking at, we're doing a project with I think Microsoft also on text to speech at the moment which has been I think, pretty successful. I'm not sure to what extent people are. I mean, I think there are two questions here. The first question is, Do people really want to listen to news stories? Because again, these stories are written to be read, rather than to be heard and there is a big difference, I think between newspaper journalism and radio journalism. And then the second question is if they are willing to listen to what they do want to listen to stories, are they willing to listen to a robot rather than a human? I'm not sure we know the answer to that yet. Obviously, the technology is getting better all the time. But again, with only eight stories. It's not beyond the realm of imagination that we could hire an actor to read out the stories for us.
I mean, there's an accessibility point here that it's kind of it works for people who are visually impaired, but I agree that for the rest of the market, there's plenty of news or add in there for relief in the English language.
That is a good point, though. I think that's we I mean, we obviously we, yeah, I don't think we've come to a decision yet. And it will depend again on how many people ask for it.
Okay, yeah, got you. How do you get skinny you know, just going back to you because do you miss journalism Do you miss the kind of real because you've sounds like you've taken to this like a doctor towards her
but then, so I was actually having lunch with someone earlier, and just said that it is a very strange experience after you know, 20 plus years of having your hands in the copy to be sitting at the side of the newsroom as the war in Ukraine unfolds. Or Elon Musk buys Twitter and not being able to play any part in shaping the output. That is a very strange feeling. But certainly at the moment, I mean, okay, the way I would describe it, as I've spent my entire life inside editorial, and it's a it's a box within, you know, the much larger ft organization stepping outside of that box and understanding how product works, and understanding how our data teams work and understanding how our commercial teams think about things isn't absolutely fascinating. And I think, you know, I mean, just journalistically it's been fascinating for me to do that and learn about the processes and I also think these are skills that every journalist should acquire. Right? I mean, I do think that our, I mean, I'll speak for myself, in the news organizations where I've worked have tended to be quite siloed. And you know, I know we've talked about this a lot within the within our sector as to how gender should acquire skills across, you know, other departments, but it really is a huge eye opening moment to see what is possible and what is not possible and how to go about getting something built and done. And yeah, that's been that's been really thrilling to be a part of
it because I would have thought, you know, the party that's an editor that's why I asked about the newsroom culture. At the beginning. It was almost like you, your dorm was pay the editors role by saying, you know, if you write a really good story on Elon Musk on Twitter, I can put it on the app. And
yeah, well, that's been a lot of these saying, you know, if only you could build this thing, then that would be amazing. We'd like to make it look like this. Can you just and without really any understanding of how that that functions and I think now at the end of it, we're not at the end, we're just the beginning but you know, three weeks or however many months actually, I've been doing this for has really taught me a lot about actually, what is the best way of building a product, what, you know, what sort of things where can journalists add value into that process? And where should we respect you know, actually, the limits of you know, we as journalists often like to imagine something and try to imagine it into existence, right. And that's not necessarily the way the world works. Where can we add value? Well, I mean, again, I think that it's important for those departments to be exposed to what is important for editorial, right and we have priorities which are built around our understanding of our audience and our understanding of how to use you know, how the news cycle works and what people want at various times. And I think that being able to give that insight to other people and say, actually, you know, this is this, you know, and combining that that's where you hopefully get to a place where users will come to something and have fallen for that.
And what do you think the worst of Converse things? Where do you think you've had to step back and say,
My expectations of how easy things are to do? I've definitely had to be an adjusted one, one issue that we had early on which I'm still not usually happy about is the size of the text in the app. Initially, we use we had initially use the wrong font and so that text size was very small, and I felt that it wasn't hugely accessible to anyone but the most keen sighted and but but you know, I kind of thought, well, if we just asked for bigger font size, all they need to do is to say, you know, show font in X point. No, that's not that's, it's not as easy as that.
Thank you. And you can have a marketing plan and marketing push next week. Tell us a bit about what form that'll take and again, what what your gut instinct is overwhelmed land.
Okay, so it's it's it's mobile ads. And across Google and elsewhere, I couldn't tell you the exact mix of them. But the campaign is built around the idea that there is a trade off generally between time and depth. So you can usually only have one or the other, right if you want to do something quickly. You know. And so, where position is that was the kind of sweet spot between those two things right? You don't have much time. Every day you don't have much attention to spare to spend. And we have spent our time curating something which means that you can get very high quality, very deep depth in a shorter period of time. So I think that the catch line for the campaign is time well read. And that's really the message we're trying to get across to people, right. We're not trying to give you a summary of everything that's happening in the world. Five minutes. What we're trying to give you is when you have five minutes to sit down and read something that is very high quality, here is something high quality to read.
Thank you. Hannah, you got really question really good question. But where this fits in with newsletters?
Yeah. Hi. The newsletter that I get in my inbox every morning is curated by me. I've chosen then to topics and I'm wondering since you chose to go with in house sort of editorial curation of this app, is there any experiences from the newsletter that made you make that choice? So how do you sort of cooperate with a newsletter, either business?
So I think he's a sort of fantastic, direct way into people's lives. Right. And and again, it's it's it's the it's the sort of, it's a great hack for instead of waiting for someone to come to you, you're going to them and that's why I think that's such a powerful tool. The flip side is I get so many newsletters, but I don't think I open all of them. I also have a you know, I've downloaded that substack reader app. I don't know if you've got it. It's it's really fantastic minimal app that you know, it's it's a great reading experience. But again, it's it's it's very difficult for me to read in its entirety every day. So I think what we've, I think what we're trying to get to is again, the feeling that we're there on your phone, you I mean it's not quite as going to that, but it's one step closer, perhaps, than having to navigate to a website. We're hoping that we'll be able to nudge people into returning using notifications. And in fact, we might even set up our own newsletter who knows. But But, but instead of a lot of different things, and a variety of different topics, and I know my experiences Yes, you generate the topics that you're interested in terms of new stresses, but actually the end result can often feel slightly disjointed or not related to, you know, the new cycle or to the things that I care about every given day, right that they're related to the the huge random selection of topics that the newsletter authors authors are interested in. And I think that the missing piece there is just that tiny extra bit of curation, right? I probably not explained myself very clearly, but that's that's kind of how I think about
it. Other apps in the app? I'm sorry, add in the app, there are no ads in the app. And are you going to keep it that way that
we will have to find a business model for the app sooner or later at the moment. I'm living in the Promised Land of no targets, but I don't know how long it will last for.
Thank you. Yeah, because I knew that that was kind of I'm getting my phone picking getting asked about the future with ads because I imagine at some point you need to figure out where this where this case.
Yeah, I think that the first goal here is to see if the audience wants it and see what that audience looks like. And after we've established that, then we can start to ask questions about how would the audience like to receive it pay for it? You know, and so
and given that, you know, you're you're owned by your own by Nikkei and you're, you know, you've talked about expansion, how important is expanding to Japan here especially when you consider the ways you looked at language, or where you mentioned India, I was just wondering where else you're thinking of regional.
I mean, I think everyone in Japan has already under k subscribers, so pretty much. I mean, I would I would love to do an Asian edition. Whether it'd be interesting to see what language we chose to do that and whether it be English or whether it would be a different language, I think after the US Well, look, actually, the way that I think we should think about this is just where is our content strongest and where do we think we have a content offering that it's going to be enticing for people? Right. And at the moment that is very much UK, Europe and the US, but But you know, I do think the FT has something to offer people in lots of different locations. I think how we roll out will depend on how strong we can put together a package for those different geographies.
It's always interested in the point at the beginning about what played well, a lot what played well is social cultural, which can be very hard to internationalize, you'd have been where if you tried to personalize that you really need people who understand those cultures to be doing that curation.
Yeah, absolutely. And we would absolutely have to have regional auditions and regional actors and people who really understood what was you know what the audience wanted in those places.
Great. Thank you. Are there any other last questions in the room that haven't come through on the phone? You just wave your hand and we'll wait for the camera if we go Who are we going into? September
so you've been a tacticals are they but the Yeti produces manual? Isn't there a risk of we're frustrated that he's not raising the app, an article that he knows is out there from Yeti but it's not included? A PICC line?
mean, I think I'm hoping that those people who are so frustrated that they will then pay for a full FTE subscription. Sorry, you've gone on mute.
So what if they drop out of the app? instead? Because they'll cut the money?
I mean, it's an interesting question. We'll have to see what the you know, we haven't had any feedback from people so far. So I mean, sorry, I tell a lie. Stephen Bush, the political economist, has a lot of fans. out there. And they've been lobbying for more Stephen bush on the app. And we, you know, if people lobby for it, we will give it to them. So you know, we will we will include more Stephen on the app. As a result, I think I think people are frustrated that they're not getting a particular sort of content that they really want to see that the FTC is providing. Then, you know, if they ask for it, and we get that in feedback, we will take it into consideration. And then again, you know, further down the line, when we're thinking about maybe more automation, more personalization that will widen the pool of articles that people that we'll be drawing
from Stephen Bush point is really interesting, because, you know, his appointment to the SP was kind of it was really, really genius appointment, because it's always kind of diversifying the political coverage and the profile of you know, the kinds of writers at the ft. And I wonder, Trent wonder how to phrase this. The FTAs done a lot to try and diversify its audience both in gender and and all sorts of demographics. And I wonder how much you see that as part of your mission as well in terms of looking at untapped audiences. You know, where you're looking?
Absolutely, absolutely. I think it's a priority under ruder, our editor to diversify our newsroom and diversify our points of view, and hopefully reach a wider audience as a result. The first step so I've been part of the, you know, the FT as part of the BBC is 5050 projects. To try and improve the gender representation newspaper. And we have been since the beginning, and I think we might also be the only UK newspaper to be part of it, which is very surprising to me. But anyway, I've been part of that project within the FT since the beginning. And so this app is part of that too. Right? We're aiming for a 5050 balance in the writers that we choose the images that we choose, and we're now expanding 5050 beyond gender into ethnicity, and well, I mean, yes, definitely. first and then and then us and then other areas. So, you know, we will be part of that too. And I think I think there's, you know, DFT has has I mean, we're focusing on gender because the FT has fewer women readers. And I think another measure of success of this app would be that large audiences. It's both male and female.
What, again, you don't have much do you have any data on gender split at the moment? I
don't have any data on gender split because we haven't asked anybody for I mean, any details at all?
It'd be interesting when you do. The fifth, have you the has the has the correction being 5050 on gender lines? Yes. consistent, and that was built in from the beginning.
Thank you. Thank you very much. Are there any other final questions there? Hannah? Is that your only good?
Yeah. Oh, very direct question. I'm, I'm curious. Is this up to me to be a stepping stone to a full subscription? Or is it meant to, to sort of tap an untapped market of people who we've never seen yet? The subscribers?
Yes, sorry. That was a that's a good question. And I didn't address it earlier. So this app is not about converting people to the full ft. We we we have no problem in acquiring our existing audience, right. If you are a business person in the UK, and you need to have financial news, then you will be an ft subscriber. And this app is really about that experimentation of whether whether there are other people who also want ft journalism. And you know, we're not expecting them to to trade up from a one pound a month app to a sorry, 19 IPO month app to a 350 pound a year ft subscription.
Thank you. Thanks very well. Yeah, I should have asked that as well, because it is a very good point. I think that's all in the room, isn't it? That right, Caitlin? Everyone. Thank you. Thank you so much. Malcolm, thank you so much for giving us an hour of your time. It's a pleasure. You know, in the month that you've launched, I know, you know, I know how busy you are. And we're really, really grateful. And it's been. It's been really insightful and really helpful. So thank you. And we will look out for the marketing and be great to have you back when you've got more data as well and how this is going.
Right. And please sign up for the app. Yes. It's a bargain.
Give us an Android beat we have Regina kabocha talking about climate change drug wars and elections in the Philippines. And so do please join us then and with your questions as well. And in the meantime, thank you all very much for joining and for all the input and for the conversation. Thank you, and your Likes are going to go off again. Thanks very much.