FT, Politico create new content-driven products, reach new readers

By Newsplexer Projects

Newsplexer Projects



Some news publishers are developing new content-driven products to attract new segments of consumers and support growing needs of current subscribers. Representatives from Politico Europe and Financial Times shared insights into the current product success and future plans with participants at the INMA Media Subscriptions Summit 2.0 in Stockholm on Thursday afternoon.

Politico Europe has a seven-prong strategy for new product development.
Politico Europe has a seven-prong strategy for new product development.

Politico Europe

Politico Europe launched in 2015 as joint venture between Politico U.S. and Axel Springer. By 2017 and 2018, the brand became the No. 1 most read and most influential media publication for EU influencers. Shéhérazade Semsar-de Boisséson, CEO of Politico Europe, shared seven key takeaways from the company’s product development strategy.

1. Build the brand: Politico is a niche publication covering politics and policy, Semsar-de Boisséson explained. The company’s newsletters, like London Playbook, Brussels Playbook, EU Confidential, and EU Influence are read by key players in the politics space. “Politico had to dominate the city, dominate the conversation,” she said.

2. Focus on the journalism: “We shocked a lot of people when we came in,” Semsar-de Boisséson said. “We have more than 60 journalists.” These journalists represent 20-plus nationalities, speak more than 15 languages, and are spread across four bureaus in Europe.

3. Be read by the right people: It has been crucial to create the Politico EU brand and drive the conversation around politics and policy to ensure key stakeholders are reading, Semsar-de Boisséson said. A survey revealed 69% of readers consider Politico Europe very or fairly influential, placing it first ahead of the Financial Times and BBC. “All of this has made us Brussels’ most influential news brand,” she said.

4. Diversify your revenue streams: “Our business model is like an iceberg. You can see it, you can read it. If you want to use it in your work, you pay for it,” Semsar-de Boisséson said. The company also offers Pro events, reporting, and conference calls to keep subscribers in touch with the latest information.

5. Close the market: By being close to readers, Politico Europe can better understand what they are missing. This relationship clued them in to Pro Climate and Pro Energy readers’ need for more sustainability coverage. “We react to it,” Semsar-de Boisséson said. “We created a spin-off for sustainability coverage.” The company created horizontals on niche topics subscribers can add to their current offering.

6. Act fast on opportunity: When readers demanded more information about Brexit, the company decided to offer a free newsletter to meet that need. “We reacted really fast,” Semsar-de Boisséson said. “We decided with editorial to come up with a product we called Brexit Files.” Another product, Brexit Pro, is the company’s number one-selling Pro product in the U.K.

7. Reinvent: “We’ve launched other types of products,” Semsar-de Boisséson explained. Politico Europe got feedback from users that they had issues distilling data and information around complex policy and governmental processes. DataPoint now helps them dig deeper into that kind of analysis.

When it comes to future products, Semsar-de Boisséson said the first version of its Pro Intelligence product will launch in September. Pro Intelligence was developed after the company acquired Statehill Inc., a Stockholm-based legislative tracking start-up. In May, Politico Europe will be integrating “human intelligence” newsroom intelligence into the platform.

James Webb discusses how Financial Times focuses on the audience experience and journey.
James Webb discusses how Financial Times focuses on the audience experience and journey.

Financial Times

Financial Times is a subscriptions-based company with 1.9 million daily readers, James Webb, the company’s group product manager, told the INMA audience. Of those, 796,000 are digital only. Financial Times has seen a 15% increase in digital engagement year-on-year.

“Our model is largely all about the habit,” Webb said. “We focus on key user journeys targeting specific segments and acquiring a new level of growth.”

Following its North Star metric, RFV (recency, frequency, volume), Financial Times assigns every subscriber a score that reflects their engagement. While the metric gives insights into content consumption habits, it is also used in business contexts. The marketing team can evaluate a customer’s RFV health, targeting any subscribers who need extra attention and encourage retention.

“It also gives some tactics for how you can approach increasing their engagement in a non-digital sense,” Webb said.

Sharing a growth case study, Webb talked about myFT, a Twitter-like feed that scaled quickly in B2B and B2C. It’s proven to consistently be the most successful way for driving engagement for the company.

“We’ve taken a long view with this as an attempt to get it right,” Webb said. “I’m not sure how representative our product efforts are of yours. In times gone by, we would spend lots of effort spitting out new features at the demands of various stakeholders, and they wouldn’t turn out to be anything.”

Data analytics revealed the more topics people follow, the more engaged they were. The company experimented with offsite and onsite engagement habits.

“People who use both the offsite experience and the onsite experience are twice as engaged,” Webb said. “Imagine that.”

Financial Times released a new feature last week that allows users to receive newsletters based on their time zone, which was a weak and sometimes buggy feature previously. Now, 60% of e-mail deliverings are sent at a personalised send time, and the company has seen a 3% increase in open rate and 5% increase in CTR. This means tens of thousands more articles read, Webb said.

Another case study focused on Topic Tracker, a DNI funded project made with start-up Crux. It is based on the idea of “quantifying knowledge,” Webb said, and enables the ability to stay on topic on topics of interest.

“For users who are never going to bother to follow a topic, we thought it would be a good opportunity to engage the disengaged,” Webb said.

The Topic Tracker is currently live to 60% of subscribers, helping those who may need to get up to speed on a topic or stay up-to-date for work. The tool is not just about the latest news and information, Webb said.

“For many publishers’ sites and apps, we all focus on the freshest latest content, but we have a lot of evergreen content that is still very valuable and gets missed, and our design patterns don’t support easy ways to get to that content.”

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