Just like the printing press, the radio, the television and all other forms of media consumption that came before it, the Internet has not only changed how journalism works, but how readers consume articles.
In today’s digital age, there’s a constant shift in power between publications and their readers. Every publication has a digital presence, and now they’re realizing the power of being relevant and engaging – in real-time with their readers.
The Financial Times, an international daily newspaper founded in 1888 with an emphasis on business and economic news, wanted to counteract today’s challenges with data.
The Problem: Finding a Scalable Way to Reach Readers
As a 129 year-old company, the Financial Times was well versed in handling change in both operating a newspaper and managing the relationship with their readers. Operating a digital publication today means you’re up against time, competing publications and Twitter.
While digging through the data to understand an article’s lifespan, the Financial Times social media editors realized that 90% of their article views occurred within the 48 hours after initial publication and flatlined quickly thereafter. Nonetheless, the lifespan of an article did not discourage the social media editors at the Financial Times for devising an idea to re-engage with their readers by re-sharing archival content.
The idea was quite simple: re-share relevant or highly popular archive stories on the Financial Times digital site as a way to engage with their readers, at a later date, without creating new content.
While proving out the idea, the social media editorial team had an ad-hoc system for identifying those pieces of archived content. There was no structured strategy in place, nor were any of their choices driven by data. With that, the team knew they needed to create a centralized system that tracked the articles and page views.
The Solution: Finding Relevant Content Through Data
With hundreds of thousands of digital subscribers, the Financial Times has accumulated a massive amount of data on readership and article activity. With all this data at their disposal, the Financial Times partnered with VoltDB, a NewSQL, cloud-friendly relational-database management system that excels at accurately counting and classifying events, to wrangle in their event data.
As VoltDB is able to handle hundreds of thousands of transactions per second, the Financial Times relied on its service to keep track of which articles their readers were engaging with in real-time. Once that data was in VoltDB, the data was then relayed to Chartio where it was blended with three additional data sources including search, social and internal production data.
Using Chartio, Alyssa Zeisler, engagement strategist at the Financial Times, was able to build out a robust dashboard explicitly tracking the readership of archived content.
The dashboard shows the social media editors which archived articles have seen an increase in traffic over the previous two weeks and the source of that traffic (search, social media or click-throughs from articles on the ft.com).
Beyond visibility into which articles the Financial Times readers were re-engaging with, Alyssa wanted to understand two trends with this dashboard:
With curating relevant archived content and promoting those articles at a later date on social media, the Financial Times was able to reach all their goals.
The Outcome: Increased Traffic and Readership
Now, rather than choosing articles based on ad-hoc methods or timely headlines, the social media editors at the Financial Times can now rely on Chartio to show them topically relevant articles to share with their readers in real-time.
Since the dashboard’s rollout in August 2016, it has quickly become an integral part to the social media strategy at the Financial Times, and is now being rolled out to other social media teams on different desks to target even more specific audience segments.
As a modern day example of how newspapers are responding to the digital age, the Financial Times is proactively relying on reader-generated data to inform their social media strategy and building out an even stronger, loyal readership along the way.
Elements of this Case Study originally appeared in the article, ‘A new dashboard from the FT helps editors identify and promote relevant archive stories,’ which was written by Madalina Ciobanu and published on Journalism.co.uk.