Liveblogged notes – prone to inaccuracies and howling grammatical errors
Just had first hack day at the FT. The winning hack was an XBox Kinnect controller, hooked up to the FT web app, allowing you to wave your hand to move through articles. A video is coming. It demonstrates that the development of technology is creating possibilities that are almost endless. Thinks it’s going to transform publishing in a fundamental way.
He was surprised by the stats on penetration of mobile in the developing world. We’re not far from the point where there’s a mobile phone for everyone in the world. There are twice as many mobile broadband connections as fixed lines now. Mobile is becoming the primary connection to the Internet. We have to change our views of people’s capabilities. 25bn apps downloaded from iTunes. 10bn from Google Play. The primary interface to the web is a mobile device.
News publishers have to get used to the idea that the future of news publishing Is on mobile devices. News is immediate – you want it now. And you’ll use the device that’s with you at all times. Most publishers haven’t woken up to this. They’re still pretty proud that they’ve got their publications on desktop…
20% of page views and 15% of new subs coming via mobile. 30% of page views from core subscribers come from mobile. The iPad and iPhone apps flipped their view of mobile from it being peripheral to central. They expect 50% of site access to be via mobile within three years. But there’s both internal and external political battles to navigate. Technology companies are vying to own it, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. He reiterates the story of the Apple t&cs switch. The biggest issue was Apple owning the relationship with the customer. The response was the web app. While they negotiated with Apple, they focused on building an HTML 5 app. When they started they were unsure how many of the features they could replicate. Audience has increased by over 50% since the switch from native to web app. They have demonstrated that they don’t need an intermediary to do business.
Publishers should be more confident in the power of their brands. Android web app coming. Still in Google Play store, because the terms are reasonable. People use different devices in different ways. Phones are short, sharp visits. Tablets are much longer, more in-depth sessions. They gravitate towards more in-depth articles. They may need different front pages.
They think they’ll still be publishing paper in 10 or 20 years – but they days of news in newspapers may well be numbered. Breaking news to reflective summary is nthe new news cycle. The news desk has a live news operation now, focusing on getting the first cut of the story out to the marketplace. The other reporters are then freed up to do the analysis that their customers rely on. A lot of work is going on in the background around images. They need to figure out how to bring graphics to mobile smoothly.
The API is they core of all this – the web app is fed by it now. Allows them to develop quickly. Will allow third parties to access content and develop tools via the API. Niche uses they’d never get around to developing. Content becomes truly portable, you could be able to read it on your Flipboard or Instapaper. You become originators of content, but the audience become the packagers, using it as they will.
This brings enormous challenges commercially and technologically. Subscriptions is going well, but advertising on mobile is a challenge. The volume of advertising on mobile is not reflecting the size of the audience. They are working on ways of bringing rich media ads to their mobile propositions.
Being niche is a good thing on the web – it’s easier to defend. But there are still competitors as long as your arm – blogs, other publications. Too many publishers haven’t had the confidence to ask their customers to pay. He cites the success of the New York Times. However, models around rewriting of wire and press release stories aren’t sustainable on the web. Confident that digital revenue can replace lost print revenue. 30% of revenues are digital, and the operations are comfortably profitable. Newspaper publishing is incredibly expensive. The weight of those costs disappears with digital.
Publishers have sat by and let the technology players define the market for them.
Print didn’t change for decades. Publishers didn’t have or need R&D departments. The Internet is infinitely open to experimentation.
Blog formats are different ways of covering content. During the Eurozone crisis the lead story on the FT.com homepage was a blog – because it was the right way to cover the story. But not much has changed yet. People like Clay Shirky at starting to challenge that. I’d be a,zed if they don’t change over time.
Metrics are crucial – the have their own platform, but are also using Chartbeat. But you still have to lead the news agenda sometimes.
API access will be controlled, and paid. They’re looking for development partners and innovative models.