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FT.com continues to roll out features

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Since the debut of a dramatic redesign of its home pages last November, the Financial Times’ Web site, FT.com, has continued to roll out new features, including a new platform for users to comment on blogs, an improved video player that allows FT.com to sell CPM advertising and a new mobile Web site, m.ft.com.

The redesign gives an identical look to the five regional home pages—called “Front Pages”—for the U.S., U.K., Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Redesigns of section and article pages, which will be similar in look and feel to the home pages, will be rolled out over the course of the year.

Like other media sites, FT.com is eager to engage its users in creating content, so the blog pages were given high priority in the redesign and were relaunched last year. A new comment engine for the blogs was activated in late January.

“In February, we had more than 27,000 individual comments,” said Rob Grimshaw, managing director of FT.com.

“That’s a huge increase from a year ago, when we only allowed comments in some limited areas.”

He added that the rapid adoption seemed to be a result of pent-up demand. “People have been e-mailing us and contacting us in other ways, so we felt they’d jump in if we gave them the opportunity,” he said.

Unlike many other media sites, though, FT.com has not added commenting capability to its articles. “We don’t feel having comments across the entire site in vanilla sort of way is the best thing to do,” Grimshaw said. If and when users are able to comment on articles, “We would probably choose a few key articles each day so that we could have people engaging in a real debate,” he said.

Over the past six months, FT.com has been using Twitter to drive traffic. “I think Twitter works particularly well [for online publishing] because quick updates are perfect for letting people know when an article or blog post has gone up,” he said.

FT.com continues to build its reservoir of video content, producing approximately 170 new videos a month. Now, the video player has been enhanced to give advertisers more options.

“Previously, we had a fairly simple sponsorship model with a preroll ad,” Grimshaw said. The upgraded player incorporates display advertising that is visible the entire time the video is playing.

The mobile market is increasingly important to FT.com.

Features that were launched on the mobile site Jan. 28 include a touch screen interface, faster access to content, improved search and the ability to customize and follow stock options. While the site has been optimized for the iPhone and BlackBerry smart phones, iPhone users will be able to take advantage of new applications in the middle of May.

The iPhone is different from other handheld mobile devices in the way it “merges the experience of the Web and the mobile format,” Grimshaw said, hinting that the new iPhone application “will show our ability to offer a high-quality FT experience in a new channel.”

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