'Financial Times' uses API, Web app to expand reach
By Charlotte Woolard
Group product manager, emerging technologies
Stephen Pinches serves as group product manager of emerging technologies at Financial Times, the first major news outlet to shift from a native to HTML5-based Web app. The app has hosted more than 3.1 million users since its June 2011 debut and currently is credited with originating 15% of new subscriptions, according to FT.
Media Business: How did you establish your process?
Stephen Pinches: We made a decision fairly early on that all of our applications would be predominantly automated. We don't lay out an app for the iPad, have a team lay one out for the iPhone and another one for Android. It's all feed-based. We didn't want to build another team just for our mobile products.
The crucial element is an (application programming interface). We spent a lot of time building an API, which is effectively the kind of layer where any third party can get hold of our content. I can query the API and get stories about b-to-b. It's very simple to integrate with third parties. A lot of publishers spend a lot of time worrying about what an app looks like, and they spend a lot less time worrying about what their content looks like to make it easier to put into an application.
MB: How did you get corporate buy-in?
Pinches: We're run across multiple channels, and it has been primary to us to have a direct relationship with the customer. So it seemed like a logical extension of our strategy. In a way, the native strategy was an anomaly. The Web app was really something that seemed quite organic in terms of our strategy. If you have a native app, there is very little reason not to have a Web-based application as well, or certainly an advanced mobile website. The boundaries between a mobile website and an app are very fluid. We tend to define it as a mobile app mainly because it works offline. I struggle to understand why any media company wouldn't have some kind of Web app.