A trade journal of a still-emerging field, written by Adam Tinworth.

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Key Points

  1. Mobile is central to’s business
  2. Online revenue and activity is shifting to mobile devices rapidly
  3. is focusing on HTML5 for both web and native apps
  4. Its apps are built on APIs to its content and other services
  5. Those APIs will be made commerically available to other developers


This morning’s FT Mobile event (full liveblog here) contained much that was no surprise at all. The story of the FT’s disatisfaction with Apple’s App Store and shift to an HTML 5-based web app is well (and often) told. I think managing director Rob Grimshaw’s characterisation of it as declaring independence from the tech giant’s war for control of mobile was slightly disingenuous – the current strategy still relies on those giants shipping web browsers with their devices with really good HTML5 support, which Apple has done.

While I suspect a lot of interest will focus on the announcement of their Windows 8 app, the real heart of the presentation was elsewhere. In fact, I think the most significant part of the session can be summed up in three letters: API. But I’ll come to that shortly.

One consistent message from Grimshaw was that publishers should be braver. Be brave enough to charge, he said. Be brave enough to step away from the App Store and other intermediaries and go your own way. I’ve seen people intepret that as a call for all publishers – B2B, local, consumer – to go that route, yet every example he cited was a national or major regional newspaper. I have my doubts that smaller circulation magazines could achieve the same success without the heavyweight Financial Times-style brand.

For me, there were two key points that emerged from the session:

1. The future is mobile.

The facts he gave were stark enough – 30% of the traffic from their core subscriber base is coming via mobile, with levels of revenue to match. A profitable digital business. The predictions are even more stark. With the FT predicting 50% of its traffic coming from mobile devices within three years, where will it be in five years? Grimshaw seemed to be postulating that within half a decade, the FT may be primarily a mobile publisher, with legacy print and desktop web businesses. And I think he’s right. Rapid news will be consumed on the phone, and in-depth analysis on the tablet. The traditional desktop PC will become the least important digital channel.

2. The future is an API

Snuck into the middle of the presentation, and returned to later in the Q&A session, was the idea that the web app is now, essentially, an interface on top of a number of APIs; one for the content, one for search and so on. Grimshaw’s talk of the work they’re doing on photos suggests that an image API is probably on the horizon, too.

As delivery channels multiply, this feels like the only sensible approach to take. Having entirely seperate workflows and content systems for each digital product is clearly a non-starter. A clear seperation of an expression layer – the web app, the web site, the newspaper – and the content layer, with the gap between the two being bridged by an API allows rapid and efficient development of new products for new platforms, because of good, basic infrastructure hygiene. Essentially, they’re thinking of their content as a dataset that can be interrogated by their products through APIs.

And, sigificantly, not just by them. Grimshaw was clear that the FT intends to open up the API to approved third party developers, through a commercial relationship, that allows them to build products that incorporate FT conent. This is the sort of propery, deep digital thinking as an approach to business that we see too rarely from publishers right now. Today’s conversation may be all about web apps versus native apps. Tomorrow’s will be about the right business models around API access to the content store.


The FT is pushing hard and fast into making mobile work, while the rest of the industry scratches its chin, and does the odd bit of experimenting. While some publishers are still figuring out what to do next, the FT has launched native iOS apps, replaced them with HTML5 apps, and then started expanding them to other platforms. It has built APIs that allow the FT to become an informational hub around which other businesses can develop. While The Guardian has done a good job of opening itself up to open web community, the FT is making a much more focused play for the commerically-minded start-up developer. I know which I’d bet on as the one more likely to fund a future for news.


Sarah Marshall’s take on the FTMobile event is worth reading.

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Rob Grimshaw

Rob Grimshaw, managing director,

Liveblogged notes – prone to inaccuracies and howling grammatical errors

Just had first hack day at the FT. The winning hack was an XBox Kinnect controller, hooked up to the FT web app, allowing you to wave your hand to move through articles. A video is coming. It demonstrates that the development of technology is creating possibilities that are almost endless. Thinks it’s going to transform publishing in a fundamental way.

He was surprised by the stats on penetration of mobile in the developing world. We’re not far from the point where there’s a mobile phone for everyone in the world. There are twice as many mobile broadband connections as fixed lines now. Mobile is becoming the primary connection to the Internet. We have to change our views of people’s capabilities. 25bn apps downloaded from iTunes. 10bn from Google Play. The primary interface to the web is a mobile device.

News publishers have to get used to the idea that the future of news publishing Is on mobile devices. News is immediate – you want it now. And you’ll use the device that’s with you at all times. Most publishers haven’t woken up to this. They’re still pretty proud that they’ve got their publications on desktop…

20% of page views and 15% of new subs coming via mobile. 30% of page views from core subscribers come from mobile. The iPad and iPhone apps flipped their view of mobile from it being peripheral to central. They expect 50% of site access to be via mobile within three years. But there’s both internal and external political battles to navigate. Technology companies are vying to own it, and it’s easy to get caught up in that. He reiterates the story of the Apple t&cs switch. The biggest issue was Apple owning the relationship with the customer. The response was the web app. While they negotiated with Apple, they focused on building an HTML 5 app. When they started they were unsure how many of the features they could replicate. Audience has increased by over 50% since the switch from native to web app. They have demonstrated that they don’t need an intermediary to do business.

Publishers should be more confident in the power of their brands. Android web app coming. Still in Google Play store, because the terms are reasonable. People use different devices in different ways. Phones are short, sharp visits. Tablets are much longer, more in-depth sessions. They gravitate towards more in-depth articles. They may need different front pages.

They think they’ll still be publishing paper in 10 or 20 years – but they days of news in newspapers may well be numbered. Breaking news to reflective summary is nthe new news cycle. The news desk has a live news operation now, focusing on getting the first cut of the story out to the marketplace. The other reporters are then freed up to do the analysis that their customers rely on. A lot of work is going on in the background around images. They need to figure out how to bring graphics to mobile smoothly.

The API is they core of all this – the web app is fed by it now. Allows them to develop quickly. Will allow third parties to access content and develop tools via the API. Niche uses they’d never get around to developing. Content becomes truly portable, you could be able to read it on your Flipboard or Instapaper. You become originators of content, but the audience become the packagers, using it as they will.

This brings enormous challenges commercially and technologically. Subscriptions is going well, but advertising on mobile is a challenge. The volume of advertising on mobile is not reflecting the size of the audience. They are working on ways of bringing rich media ads to their mobile propositions.

They’re very excited about Windows 8, and are bringing their app there. Beta version pretty much complete. Hoping to have a fantastic app ready for the Autumn launch. They don’t believe that the tablet space is yet settled. Room for strong competitors to Apple. And they want the FT to be at the forefront of Microsoft’s shift to tablets.

Being niche is a good thing on the web – it’s easier to defend. But there are still competitors as long as your arm – blogs, other publications. Too many publishers haven’t had the confidence to ask their customers to pay. He cites the success of the New York Times. However, models around rewriting of wire and press release stories aren’t sustainable on the web. Confident that digital revenue can replace lost print revenue. 30% of revenues are digital, and the operations are comfortably profitable. Newspaper publishing is incredibly expensive. The weight of those costs disappears with digital.

Publishers have sat by and let the technology players define the market for them.

Print didn’t change for decades. Publishers didn’t have or need R&D departments. The Internet is infinitely open to experimentation.

Blog formats are different ways of covering content. During the Eurozone crisis the lead story on the homepage was a blog – because it was the right way to cover the story. But not much has changed yet. People like Clay Shirky at starting to challenge that. I’d be a,zed if they don’t change over time.

Metrics are crucial – the have their own platform, but are also using Chartbeat. But you still have to lead the news agenda sometimes.

API access will be controlled, and paid. They’re looking for development partners and innovative models.


Missed this interesting paywall post while I was at Like Minds last week:

I asked my class of 20-year-old Elon University students how many were on Facebook. All 33 raised their hands. Many of them suggested they were addicted to the social network. (It was all I could do to keep them off Facebook during class.)

I asked how many would pay $1 a month for Facebook membership. All raised their hands.

“Five dollars?” I asked. A few dropped out.

“Ten dollars a month?” I asked. Nearly every hand stayed down.

“No one?” I said. “I thought you guys were addicted?”

A student piped up with an explanation: “Someone will invent something else to take its place that is free.”

It’s an interesting challenge: older customers might be prepared to pay, because they’re used to the model. Younger customers don’t reject the model, but their expectations of value are very different. That suggests that paywalls, as currently constituted, are a defensive measure to gain revenue from a declining, older customer base.

Caveat: it would be interesting to see the same questions asked if it was company money, not personal cash at stake…

The crowd at NEXT Berlin 2012

Ah, I love NEXT. Unlike many tech-based conferences, which are very rooted in the now, they have a remarkable knack of looking about two years into the future, and giving you a sense of what the world might look like then. I’ve been working with them since January, and it’s one of the pieces of work I enjoy the most. Here’s all the liveblogging I did for them earlier in the month:
Day One
Day Two
Videos of all the sessions are flowing onto the site now. Loads of juicy brain food for you there!
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Like Minds founder Scott Gould

Links to my liveblogs of day two of Like Minds Exeter 2012


Andrew Gerrard


Harry Duns at work

Like Minds 2012 Exeter audience

Links to my liveblogs of day one of Like Minds Exeter 2012
Morning session:
Afternoon Session:

The Like Minds VIPs in Exeter's Guildhall
A little tipple

John Rosling at Like Minds Exeter

John Rosling, Shirlaws (site dead – find him on Twitter now) “Chief Executive or Chief Entrepreneur? The Future of Business Leadership”

Based on a show of hands of the Like Minds audience, this room contains the highest ratio of entrepreneurship to business ownership John Rosling’s seen.

The defining qualities of entrepreneurs:

  • Set the context – for the people in your organisation and your circles of partnership. Don’t get distracted by the content – you have to focus on the context of the problem, not the details of it. A company he worked with set the context of “freedom”, and they keep that idea in mind whenever they make a decision.
  • Manage the energy – we’re all bundles of energy – getting all that energy moving in one direction is the definition of success. You need to be inspirational. If you’re not, your business can never grow bigger than what you currently manage.
  • Coach, don’t play – you’re not on the field any more. You’re not midfield, feeding forwards. You’re on the touchline. A contact sends a blog post to all his staff every morning. He spends much of his time walking the floor of the business.

Rosling’s theory is that every business in the world understands how it does what it does. Quite a lot of businesses understand what they do – the passion and people and intellectual property that drive it. Very few understand “why”. Who does? Apple.

As an entrepreneur, you have to create the “why”. People won’t get excited by a plan. They will get excited by a dream. The person who understands “how” will always have a job, the person who understands “why” will be the boss.

The generation coming up have grown up in an age of abundance – of information and (for most) wealth. They want things to happen now. They’re not interested in hierarchy. They’ve also seen the cost of the growth – two parents working for a faceless corporate. They want freedom instead. They’ve seen the impact on the environment and the social fabric of the planet of the current model.

That’s the description of an entrepreneur. Over 50% of young people in the US have started a business or have a credible plan to do so. Large corporates are nervous about that. For us, as entrepreneurs, this is good news – structure your business to attract that talent.

What drives people

Dan Pink’s motivation. Autonomy, mastery and purpose are what drive people. If you don’t have a “why”, you won’t get talent.

Building great businesses sounds easy: know why, have a great vision and give people autonomy, mastery and purpose. Is that all we need to do? It’s better than that. What we get to create is wealth. You can drive profit. Valuation = profit x multiple. What the balance of time between profit and multiple?

To him, there’s no conflict between profit and sustainability – profit is an inherent element of sustainability. But if you chase profit, all you get is more profit, not more wealth – culturally or commercially. Each industry has a multiple that people value the business by based on its profit. If you’re in a 1.0 industry – get out.  How do we build real wealth?

Culture and talent – we’re going to enter a period of sustained growth (his personal view). And you need to get your culture right to succeed. And we’ll have a talent shortage – and the right culture will attract talent. But then you drive that culture into product. Culture is now, innovation is tomorrow. You must understand what is unique about the business. Often the things that you believe in sit in the heart of that. Saga used to think that they were a travel company – but realised that they were a company that catered to people in old age.

A lot of what he’s talking about has nothing to do with money. We’re moving to a world beyond money. Talent will follow purpose, not money. Maybe we’re dealers in hope for the future.

Rajeeb Dey – CEO, Enternships

Liveblog of a talk at Like Minds Exeter 2012

Rajeeb dey

Rajeeb graduated in 2008, the year Lehman went down, and, despite some great job offers, he decided to set up in business on his own.

His company is Enternships; the aim is giving working in a startup the same kudos as working in a large organisation as an intern.

Lots of people want to start their own businesses, but never do. Analysis paralysis is a problem – we’re taught to be risk-adverse and to frown at failure. Too many people view entrepreneurship as what you do when you don’t have a job. But it’s about freedom and about meaningful work.

There is hope: there are a lot of bodies out there.

Entrepreneurship is jumping off a cliff and building a parachute on the way down. Are you ready to jump?

This visualisation of social media marketing tools has been doing the rounds of late:

Buddy Media's social media marketing tools diagram

I found it on Business Insider. It was created by BuddyMedia

The general reaction has been something along the lines of:

Oh no! Woe is me! It’s all so complicated! I thought Social Media was just Twitter and Facebook!

You know what’s worse? Look at this:

My wife's tool boxes


Whatever am I going to do with them all? House maintenance is too complicated!

Now, here’s the thing: exactly how seriously would you take a tradesman who turned up to your house with one size of spanner and a single screwdriver, and complained when the job required more than that?

You’d kick them straight out the door, and throw their tools after them.

True craftsmen respect a diversity of tools, know that different occasions call for the use of different tools, and they have the skill and knowledge to adapt when the task requires it.

I wouldn’t like to suggest that the social media “profession” is one rather over-burdened with amateur hacks who’ve learnt how to use two or three tools by rote. No, I’m not suggesting that.

I’m stating it.

The social media world is split between people who look at that diagram and go “oh my God, how do I cope” and those who go “Oooh, possibilities.”

Can I suggest that you’d be better working with the latter? People who are excited by possibilities are so much more fun than those who are afraid of them…