Internal Product Development at the Financial Times by Claire Parker

In this ProductTank London talk, Claire Parker describes how the Financial Times built internal tools for editorial use by using a product development approach. She covers how this has grown over the years and discusses the ways in which the FT has helped other companies to grow through partnerships and collaborative projects.

Four years ago, the FT built a newsroom analytics tool to see how customers engaged with its news stories. The tool, known as Lantern, revolutionised operations because it enabled editors and journalists to monitor the performance of their stories and topics. Lantern became useful in just about every editorial conference at the FT: it detailed who the users were, their location in the world, what devices were they on, and so on. Claire outlines the key milestones of the Lantern journey by detailing aspects of the product development approach. She focuses primarily on how they built the product, how this grew into an internal products programme, and how the FT ended up helping partner projects on the side.

In The Beginning…

In 2015, a group of product people, business analysts, engineers, and product managers captured a vision for Lantern and expressed it with a mission statement. Claire and her colleagues interviewed journalists and editors and then drew up a series of user journeys to share with the newsroom. She used these user journeys to clarify the nature of the user requirements and her understanding of their needs.

User Testing

During development, Claire’s team launched an alpha Lantern tool to gauge the response from the newsroom across a number of parameters – testing for layout, ease of use and presentation, the team began to trial dummy data to make sure that the tool operated as intended. Open dialogue and detailed feedback were of paramount importance during this stage.

Launching Lantern

Claire’s team launched Lantern while continuing to listen to users. According to Claire, Lantern was not so much about learning analytics as it was about embedding data into a day-to-day workflow. It led the FT to change its approach to training and to focus on optimising content through the data from Lantern.

Lantern has proved to be an effective newsroom tool, and an endorsement for the product approach. It’s been a good investment for the company, but its value extends far beyond its data functions. For example, the FT has shared its product building process with Japanese business publication Nikkei Asian Review.

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