Relaunched Financial Times mobile site identifies user profiles
The Financial Times, one of the leading financial newspapers worldwide, has relaunched its mobile Web site with better reader identification capability.
The site at http://m.ft.com is using Bango's Identifier technology to improve the analytics on its mobile reader base, a challenge for most publishers with mobile sites.
"We're uniquely identifying profiles in the mobile site so we can personalize the experience," said Stephen Pinches, lead product development manager at FT.com, London.
"One of the problems on mobile devices, especially the BlackBerry, is that they don't support cookies," he said. "But Bango can give us a unique identifier that does the same job as a cookie.
"It's not 100 percent -- there's use-cases where it doesn't work, but it's a step forward."
The mobile site relaunch comes two months after the wired FT.com was relaunched. The wired site has just crossed 1 million registered users, a major feat considering that The Wall Street Journal's site at http://www.wsj.com is its biggest competitor.
FT has had a mobile presence going back a decade. Its first redesign was in mid-2007. The relaunch this month includes a better user interface on the mobile FT.com, allowing for a fair degree of customization of features by readers.
For example, readers can add stocks to their mobile site and follow their progress from the mobile site.
In addition, the site offers a new touch screen interface, scroll-down access to content for a quick browse and improved search.
Of course, FT.com mobile is in salmon pink -- the trademark color of the FT brand.
The mobile site targets the typical FT audience -- executives in the C-Suite, but who also travel extensively. It also aims for a younger demographic seeking financial news and information.
"The research we've done shows that our younger users tend to use the mobile Web a little more," Mr. Pinches said. "And it's also a good medium for us to get into countries where they have more mobile Internet usage than fixed Internet -- the Asian and African countries."
Given its audience profile, it is not surprising that the mobile FT.com is optimized for the Apple iPhone and BlackBerry mobile phones. Together, these devices are said to account for more than 60 percent of FT.com's mobile traffic.
FT.com is using the open source WURFL database for identifying users' handsets and capabilities.
Mr. Pinches would not disclose precise data on usage or the number of visitors. But he claimed that the mobile FT.com generated millions of page views each month. With the tweaks the publisher will be able to offer advertisers information on unique visitors on mobile.
"Previously we had very good statistics on page views, but it was difficult to get details of unique visitors," Mr. Pinches said.
"With the new integration with Bango, we can now get a much better idea of who's visiting the site and where they're coming from," he said.
So, not only can FT.com track its mobile visitors by country, but it is also possible to monitor the responses to marketing efforts and ads on the site.
However, once the readers click on the ad on the mobile FT.com, then the advertiser tracks their activity on the landing pages.
A key selling point of the new mobile FT.com is the level of customization it offers.
"The FT understands that if the user can customize what they see on the mobile device and can come back and get that same personalization without having to log in, then it's a great added benefit," said Sarah Keefe, vice president of marketing at Bango, a mobile analytics firm in Cambridge, England, and New York.
"No other publication has used our Identifier in this way," she said. "The User ID provides a way for publishers and businesses to track consumer behavior and understand how they are interacting with their Web site.
"The User ID is the mobile version of a cookie but is specifically designed for mobile browsers with a persistent identity on all mobile devices and across multiple user sessions."
Previous advertisers on the mobile FT.com have included the Star Alliance, Vodafone, DHL, GE, Xerox and UBS. A new undisclosed advertiser is set to come onboard Feb. 1 with a campaign across the mobile site.
Mr. Pinches expects to see continued interest in mobile sponsorships from advertisers in categories that mirror FT.com and the FT broadsheet.
"Generally we get financial services, technology and increasingly we're seeing luxury goods advertisers," he said.
FT.com will continue to lean toward the site sponsorship model for its mobile presence. Clickable banner ads linking to landing pages are part of the experience.
"We're keeping a very close eye on ad formats and as more ad formats come along, we want to make sure that our advertisers can use them," Mr. Pinches said.
"The site sponsorship model is working very well for us at the moment," he said, "and who knows, we might move to the CPM model in the future."
Unlike many publishers, FT.com decided to customize its platform, working with Web software developer Assanka, London, to relaunch the mobile site. This was Assanka's first mobile assignment.
"We made a strategic decision because there's a lot of off-the-shelf products that allow you to create a mobile site," he said. "But really we wanted the flexibility of having to build it ourselves and that means we can change it to our image."
Later this quarter, FT.com will upgrade its site to include interactive mobile charting for readers to access company information and index data from their phone.
Also, a dedicated iPhone application is set to launch with more graphics and charts. The application will let readers share FT content with the integration of the address book, too.
In addition to the mobile FT.com, readers can also access the FT mobile news reader by visiting http://www.ft.com/mobilenewsreader or texting 'GO FTAPP' to the 85080 short code in Britain.
Regardless of the entry point to mobile, the FT's effort going forward is to raise the bar on the user experience when viewing the mobile site. The publication recognizes that consumer expectations are up with newer smartphones on the market and evolving reading habits.
"Users don't expect the lowest-common-denominator approach on mobile anymore," Mr. Pinches said.
"So we want to make sure we're serving up the best possible experience for the given device," he said. "And that extends to advertisers. We want to provide a platform that premium advertisers really want to be associated with."