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.