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Financial Times relies on reader behaviour data to focus digital strategy

By Western iMedia



Mobile usage for news content must be taken into account when it comes to data, said Tom Betts, head of data analytics at the Financial Times. He showed the audience at the 2014 INMA World Congress why this is true.

“We have more digital subscribers than we do print circulation,” he said.

Financial Times focuses on gathering data about consumers using all forms of its content, Betts said: “It’s key because the FT puts customers at the center of everything it does.”

Betts showed a graph that included his own behaviour with content as a developed programme called Customers DNA. By using this, Betts can better understand readers and what sort of content they are interacting with.

“It stores the kind of content I’m interested in,” he said.

With people getting news from many different devices, Betts said the mobile platform has changed FT’s approach to where the company places its apps for readers to use.

“Users can consume content wherever they like,” he said. 

Media companies often wonder where readers are viewing content the most, and this is where data is crucial: “We need to get as much data as we can to answer those questions.”

This data changes as news is introduced on smartphones and tablets. Data also changes depending on where users decide to access content during different times of the day.

“When will I use my tablet? When I’m at home,” he said.

These types of data are important for the media companies, Betts said. They use it to judge their own investment in their apps. Data can also be used on the other side of the spectrum. Journalists are interested in seeing how their story was viewed. 

“People say, ‘Was my content successful?’” he said.

Betts showed a tool where journalists can log in to see the traffic on their story, along with how people are sharing it and engaging with it online.

Using data to drive recommendations and engagement in content is also key in marketing. Data helps companies place relevant ads in places they belong. Engagement with ads placed using this data have a higher chance of reaching their intended audience. It is important to show the appropriate content to the right people.

“Not everyone is a news junkie,” he said.

This means that getting more engagement and building a larger audience is something that needs to be thought about. Engagement can range from reader to reader. 

“Not every customer is coming to the site all the time and reading lots of stuff,” he said.

By using survey research and behavioural data together, engagement can be better judged and appropriate changes can be made from what the data shows.

“Don’t put it in lots of silos, bring it together if you can,” he said.

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